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Orange County United Way’s Inaugural “FACE 2024 Report” Details County’s Progress Toward Long-term Goals In Education, Income, Health And Housing; Challenges Ahead

Orange County United Way’s Inaugural “FACE 2024 Report” Details County’s Progress toward Long-term Goals in Education, Income, Health and Housing; Challenges Ahead

February 23 event hosted by Edwards Lifesciences drew over 200 business, community, government and education leaders

Report shows progress on education and fight against obesity; however, higher cost of living in Orange County making challenges even more difficult in the areas of housing and family financial stability

Irvine, CA – Orange County United Way hosted its inaugural “FACE 2024 Report” event Tuesday, providing a one-year update on Orange County’s progress against its 10-year goals. These goals arose from the organization’s groundbreaking, community-wide action plan to tackle Orange County’s most critical challenges in the areas of Education, Income, Health and Housing.

By 2024, the goals of this program are:

  • Education: Cutting high school dropout rate in half
  • Income: Reducing the percentage of financially unstable families by 25 percent
  • Health: Increasing the number of healthy youth by one-third
  • Housing: Cutting the percentage of homeless and housing insecure children in half

The results unveiled Tuesday showed early progress in cutting the high school dropout rate and in reducing childhood obesity.

However, statistics also clearly illustrate a significant opportunity gap that has only worsened as Orange County’s cost of living continues to skyrocket, wages for lower-skilled jobs have stagnated and the supply and affordability of housing remain low. As a result, financial stability and housing security among Orange County children have worsened since FACE 2024 was launched in 2014.

“While we’ve made tremendous gains, it’s not all flowers and roses,” stated Orange County United Way President and CEO Max Gardner at the event. “There are significant headwinds in the areas of financial stability and housing that will make meeting our goals in these areas more challenging. But it also reinforces the critical nature of what we’re all doing.”

Specific results announced Tuesday, by category:

Education: The countywide dropout rate is down to 6.7% and is moving in the right direction, but dropout rates remain higher than normal in Anaheim, Santa Ana and Garden Grove, and among Latino students.

Family Financial Stability: Family financial instability has risen to 41% and is increasing as an opportunity gap widens with available jobs. While the county’s cost of living ratio to income continues to be disproportionate, salaries are increasing for higher wage occupations and decreasing for lower wage occupations. Job training and education for available, good-paying jobs are critical in addressing the skill and opportunity gaps.

Childhood Obesity: Obesity rates have declined to 29.2%, although children in some communities remain challenged. For example, almost half of children in Stanton are overweight or obese. Additional initiatives focused on healthy food choices and physical activity for children and parents are needed in targeted communities to move the needle.

Housing Instability: The number of homeless or housing-insecure children has risen to 32,000. High housing costs and low skill levels for sustainable jobs are challenging many families. Job training and education for higher wage earning jobs and increasing availability of affordable housing options are critical to ensure children are stably housed.

“The thought of so many residents living in poverty here is scary,” explained Ian Leisegang, Executive Director of the Irvine office of J.P. Morgan and member of the Orange County United Way Board of Directors. “To me, that’s the tale of two counties.”

Drilling down further into the statistics by geography is even more alarming.

“Nearly half of the children who live in Stanton are overweight or obese,” reported Sue Parks, Vice Chair of United Way’s Board of Directors and CEO iCount Wellness at Walkstyles, an Orange County-based company integrating wellness into organizational culture.

These numbers reinforce why in 2012 Orange County United Way commissioned a communitywide assessment study and engagement process to identify the most critical challenges facing Orange County residents. The results at that time were sobering:

  • 4,000 Orange County students drop out of high school each year
  • One in four of our residents live in poverty
  • One-third of our children are overweight or obese
  • 30,000 of our children are homeless or housing-insecure

Armed with these facts, United Way launched FACE 2024 in early 2014.

Orange County United Way spent much of 2014 building the infrastructure for the FACE 2024 communitywide action plan. This included the establishment of numerous partnerships and initiatives that are already make an impact and progress toward their long-term goals.

Some of these successful partnerships include:

  • OC Reads helping Orange County students read at grade level by third grade, which is proven to impact a student’s likelihood to graduate from high school.
  • Destination Graduation providing a path on which students can achieve success and graduate on time.
  • Free Tax Prep services giving free tax prep assistance to lower-income working families with the goal of maximizing tax refunds through the federal and state Earned Income Tax Credit and other similar programs.
  • SparkPoint OC Financial Empowerment Centers helping families create step-by-step personal finance plans to tackle their specific needs.
  • Waste Not OC increasing access to fresh and healthy food options.
  • Covered OC convening all stakeholders working to increase access and enrollment in Covered California and other healthcare options.
  • Rapid Re-housing helping Orange County families with children that are homeless or unstably housed move into permanent, private market affordable housing.

“These initiatives have already made a tremendous impact on the lives of thousands of Orange County children,” explained Carla Vargas, Orange County United Way’s Senior Vice President, Community Impact. “We invite our community partners, volunteers and residents throughout Orange County to join us in the significant work that is ahead.”

Along with Gardner, Leisegang and Parks, Steve Churm, Vice President of Corporate Communications at FivePoint Communities, also spoke at the event, detailing results on Education.

Video presentations by issue experts and key partners by FACE 2024 area included:

  • Al Mijares, Orange County Superintendent of Schools – Education
  • Lucy Dunn, President & CEO, Orange County Business Council – Income
  • Dr. Patricia A. Riba, Pediatrician and Medical Director, Serving Kids Hope – children’s wellness program – Health
  • Scott Larson, Executive Director, HomeAid Orange County and Chair, Commission to End Homelessness – Housing

The FACE 2024 Report event was generously sponsored by Bank of America and hosted by Edwards Lifesciences, both key corporate partners of United Way in support of FACE 2024.

For more information about Orange County United Way’s FACE 2024 Report and scorecard, please visit www.unitedwayoc.org/face-2024.


Katherine Ransom, Vice President, Marketing and Communications
Orange County United Way 949.263.6176, katheriner@unitedwayoc.org

Michael Suydam
21Strat 949.981.5008, mike@21strat.com

Since 1924, Orange County United Way has been working to improve lives and strengthen our community by mobilizing the caring power of Orange County and focusing on the building blocks for a good quality of life: Education, Income, Health and Housing. By investing in Orange County children, families and individuals, we help them create pathways to self-sufficient lives. In short, we help people help themselves. Through our 10-year community-wide action plan, FACE 2024 (an acronym for Fund, Advocate, Collaborate, Educate), we collaborate with local businesses, community organizations, governmental agencies and individuals to make a long-term measurable difference in the lives of local individuals and families. To learn more or to join our movement, visit www.unitedwayoc.org.


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