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Washtenaw United: "Friends In Deed" Continues Community Support During Pandemic

Sarah Thornburg
Friends In Deed

For several decades, the Ypsilanti-based organization "Friends In Deed" has been a major asset to Washtenaw County residents.  It has provided everything from furniture to financial aid to those who need it most.  In this week's "Washtenaw United," WEMU's David Fair has a conversation with Friends In Deed executive director Sarah Thornburg, who explains the organization's strategies during the COVID-19 crisis.

WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw Countyto explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area.  And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services.  It is a community voice.  It is 'Washtenaw United.'


Sarah Thornburg has been executive director of Friends In Deed for 9 years.  She earned her Master's Degree in Public Administration for the University of Michigan-Dearborn.


Friends In Deed (FID)

Over the Edge Fundraiser for FID


United Way’s COVID-19 Community Relief Fund will help ensure that there is financial support for individuals, families, and community organizations.

Our Community Relief Fund grants are providing unrestricted operating support to local human service nonprofits and community groups meeting immediate, emergent, and unanticipated needs of people and communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prioritizing response efforts that attend to racial inequity remains a central tenet in United Way’s grant making as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal the disproportionate impact of this virus on people and communities of color. (See Washtenaw County COVID-19 data.)

To learn more about the fund and investments made, click here.

Friends In Deed is one of UWWC’s partners, providing financial assistance when folks have specific needs that cannot always be met with other funding sources.  With funding from United Way’s COVID-19 Community Relief Fund, Friends In Deed is at the ready to assist people with low incomes who have been directly affected by the COVID-19 virus or the financial consequences of Stay In Place safeguards.  This includes car repair, utility payments, medical and dental payments, prescriptions, medical equipment needs, minor home repairs, obtaining personal documents, storage units, court costs and other unmet needs.

While requests for utility assistance have declined recently because of emergency holds on accounts, we anticipate a substantial increase in requests once Stay in Place is lifted.  Many individuals, some of whom have never experience this type of hardship, will not be able to maintain payment plans or make minimum payments due to lack of employment and income.  We also expect that larger sums will be needed for resolution.

Friends In Deed’s focus staying flexible and adaptive is imperative at this time.  We will not know the full extent of the community’s needs until Stay in Place is lifted.  United Way prioritized flexible investments from the Community Relief Fund to ensure organizations can respond most effectively as needs emerge.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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