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ESL Charitable Foundation Grants $4 Million for Basic Needs Programs and Services Through United Way

Critical support will provide thousands of community members with basic human necessities

Rochester, NY — In response to the significantly increased needs of the Greater Rochester community as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis, ESL Federal Credit Union announced today that the ESL Charitable Foundation will provide a $4 million grant to United Way of Greater Rochester to support 20 local health and human services agencies that provide crucial basic needs programs. The grant will fund emergency services, legal assistance, community partnerships, and housing and shelter to provide community members with access to the basics: healthy food, safe living spaces, employment resources, disaster relief, and information and referral resources.

“Our basic needs providers meet high demand every year, but have been pushed to the breaking point given the impacts of COVID-19,” said Jaime Saunders, President & CEO of United Way of Greater Rochester. “Our community has worked together to bend the COVID-19 curve, and we need to work together now to bend the basic needs curve for so many individuals and families in Greater Rochester.”

The COVID-19 health crisis has increased the demand for services, pushing additional individuals and families to seek help. In fact, in June 2020, the unemployment rate in Greater Rochester surged to 11.3%, compared to less than 4% during the same time last year. Calls for help to 2-1-1 LIFE LINE, our community’s information and referral hotline, have tripled since March. More than 60% of these calls were for food, housing and shelter, when in 2019, fewer than 28% of requests were for basic needs, and calls for food are up 20 fold.

As the community continues to grapple with the impacts of the pandemic, experts expect a surge of additional need as governmental assistance ends.

“This community that we love has given us so much and ESL has a duty to step up and help Greater Rochester,” said Faheem Masood, President and CEO, ESL Federal Credit Union. “We say that our Purpose is ‘To help our community thrive and prosper’ and that cannot and will not be possible if we are not doing our part to contribute to uplifting the health and resiliency of critical agencies that provide essential services to thousands of individuals and families.”

Individuals seeking assistance may contact 2-1-1 LIFE LINE, a longstanding United Way partner and our community’s resource for human service resources and referrals.

The announcement today comes only weeks after United Way announced a significant gap in fundraising for its annual campaign, which had just begun as COVID-19 shut down workplace operations statewide. The campaign is focused on funding health, education, and economic mobility services—all of which are also severely affected by the pandemic. Workplaces and individuals who are interested in supporting these key building blocks of community success are encouraged to visit

To learn more about ESL’s commitment to a thriving region, visit To learn more about United Way of Greater Rochester, the programs, and people supported by United Way’s Community Impact Fund, visit

About United Way

United Way of Greater Rochester’s mission is to unite the good will and resources of the Greater Rochester community so that everyone can thrive. We address critical challenges by connecting local people in need with evidence-based programs, strategic funding investments, community initiatives, volunteer support and community leadership to direct resources and solve problems. Please visit us online at

About ESL Federal Credit Union

With 100 years of locally-owned history, ESL Federal Credit Union serves as a full-service financial institution to more than 374,000 members and 11,100 businesses. Founded in 1920, the company provides personal banking, business banking, mortgage services and wealth management services through its locally-based 22 branch network, telephone, mobile, online and live chat center.

The Rochester-based financial institution employs approximately 850 people in in the Greater Rochester area and holds more than $7.3 billion in assets. Since 1996, ESL has paid out 25 consecutive Owners’ Dividends to its members totaling more than $170 million. The company has appeared on the Great Place to Work® Best Small & Medium Workplaces list for nine years since 2010. ESL Federal Credit Union is headquartered at 225 Chestnut Street, in Rochester and can be found online at

For more information, contact:

Rich Pulvino, APR
Vice President/Director, Corporate Communications