JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The United Way of East Tennessee Highlands has invested thousands in several area non-profits and youth initiatives.

A release from the United Way states the organization invested $50,000 in local social innovation projects after a panel of judges and a live audience heard pitches from non-profits. The pitches were made at the ESTU Martin Center for the Arts on May 11, and the release stated that the presenters stirred emotions as they shared plans for the investment and expressed needs for the funding.

After a recount of votes, Unity Housing was determined to be the winner after Second Harvest Food Bank was initially announced as the top recipient. Both organizations were awarded $10,000 as a result.

The United Way stated it funded projects for Appalachian Opportunity Fund, Salvation of Johnson City, Second Harvest of Northeast Tennessee and Unity Housing.

Three youth-based initiatives also made pitches at the May 11 event in hopes of receiving funding from the United Way. Those who received grants included the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce, Loaves and Fishes Outreach Ministry and Unlimited Youth.

Below are descriptions of each organization’s projects that will be funded, as provided by the United Way:

Appalachian Opportunity Fund (AOF) will utilize their funds to implement a new Customer Relations Management software solution to expand communication, improve coaching outcomes, streamline data management, and empower the organization to better serve clients and achieve scalability in the Appalachian Highlands.

Salvation of Johnson City will establish a mobile technology hub within their new Café Hope, by procuring laptops and tablets to provide case managers vital resources for assisting clients in tasks like employment applications, accessing benefits, housing searches, and educational resources, thereby fostering personal growth and development.

Second Harvest of Northeast Tennessee will continue its Head Start 2 Health program focused on improving nutrition and cognitive development by providing nutritious foods to over 1,000 children and families, while piloting a new app technology for ordering emergency nutrition and food needs.

Unity Housing will allocate its funds to offer comprehensive training in Critical Time Intervention (CTI) to 100 downtown service providers to enhance collaborative efforts in addressing housing barriers, with the ultimate goals of securing permanent housing, reducing homelessness, and promoting self-sufficiency.

Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce’s Chamber LIFE program will use funding to support staff, transportation, and program needs, while offering valuable vocational insight, promoting educational and career advancement, and providing technology resources to empower students for their next steps in life.

Loaves and Fishes Outreach Ministry will improve its Feed the Children program by offering specially designed food and snacks for children, fostering an inclusive and comfortable environment that ensures an ample supply of nutrition for young individuals seeking assistance.

Unlimited Youth will utilize its funds to promote education, tutoring, and skills camps while empowering young female players through basketball and faith.