(Portland, ME – January 27, 2022)  United Way of Southern Maine (UWSM) announced it is granting more than $170,000 to four organizations through its Racial Equity Fund. 

Thanks to founding funding partner, IDEXX, and individual donations from community members, United Way of Southern Maine’s Racial Equity Fund (REF) supports and strengthens organizations led by and serving people of color, while advancing the work at the heart of the community developed Thrive2027 initiative.  

 “IDEXX is proud to support the Racial Equity Fund because we know that, through these grants from United Way, there will be meaningful, innovative, and intentional work happening through the community, by the community, to address the systemic challenges that people of color experience on a daily basis,” said Zach Nelson, Vice President, Human Resources, IDEXX. 

 The REF was open to applicants from Cumberland and York Counties. Recipients of the Fund encompass a range of local organizations and partnerships within Southern Maine. Selected programs serve at least 50% people of color and help to support Thrive2027 work with supplemental funding for organizational capacity building and/or general operating costs. 


Those with an * next to their names meet the Fund’s priority of supporting Black and African American led and serving organizations.  

Organization Name 

Project Title 

Award Amount 

Gateway Community Services Maine* 

Youth Mentoring Program 


In Her Presence* 

Moving Onto the Stage Year 2 


Intercultural Community Center* 

Capacity Building 


Maine Association For New Americans 

MANA Community Transportation Project 


 “With these critical funds, we will enhance our Youth Mentoring Program in Cumberland County and mitigate the social isolation caused by COVID-19 and the ongoing limitations of in-person programming,” said Abdullahi Ali, Executive Director of Gateway Community Services. “We are grateful to United Way of Southern Maine for prioritizing programs and services that are building healthy connections to promote vibrancy, well-being, and acceptance throughout our community.” 

To further reduce inequities in the nonprofit sector related to funding and network access, UWSM made outreach and raising awareness of the REF a top priority. Additionally, UWSM provided preparation and technical assistance support and retained independent grant writers who were available for assistance to each potential applicant. 

“United Way took intentional steps to fund the best ideas and projects addressing inequities for people of color and advancing Thrive2027 goals,” shared Liz Cotter Schlax, President and CEO of United Way of Southern Maine. “Members of our community have the solutions to the challenges our region faces. However, they need resources to start or expand them.”  

 The Fund’s decision-making committee included: Tae Chong –Maine State Chamber of Commerce and City of Portland, Anne Dalton –Association of Junior Leagues International, Lelia DeAndrade –Maine Community Foundation, Jim Elkins –Career Planning Services, Warren Graver –BerryDunn, Kim Gustafson –Mitchell Institute, Rich Henry –Lincoln Financial, Allegra Hirsh-Wright –Maine Behavioral Healthcare, Zach Nelson –IDEXX, Dan Santos –Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, Laura Shen –WEX, Brian Townsend –Amistad. 

“United Way has a very thoughtful, rigorous, and collaborative process in evaluating grant proposals to ensure the program outcomes are tied to our collective community goals,” said grant reviewer Laura Shen, Director of Strategy at WEX, Inc. and 2021 United Way Loaned Executive. “I am confident the selected group of organizations and their programs will continue to strengthen the fabric of our community.” 

Although UWSM-funded programs currently serve an estimated 50% people of color, UWSM established the Racial Equity Fund as one step to address disparities more intentionally in education, financial stability, and health.  

“Equity is an embedded principle in our grantmaking, and we also recognize that equity is not only a moral and economic imperative for our community, but it is central to our mission of uniting caring people to help us all thrive,” said Diane Garofalo, Chair of United Way of Southern Maine’s Board of Directors. “When I speak with people from various sectors, communities, and of differing viewpoints, we can all agree that to build a stronger, more equitable Southern Maine, we need to do more together to put opportunity in the hands of everyone, regardless of race or ZIP code.”   


About United Way of Southern Maine  

United Way of Southern Maine’s (UWSM) mission is to improve people’s lives by mobilizing the caring power of our community. UWSM unites individuals and organizations around our community’s shared vision to improve education, financial stability, and health for every person in Southern Maine. With community partners, UWSM builds on strategies that are known to achieve the best results, and rigorously evaluates progress toward those goals. UWSM actively seeks to engage donors, advocates, and volunteers to create measurable, long-lasting community change. Learn more at