This year’s campaign chair for the 2013 United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area is … you.
Brenda Episcopo, executive director for the United Way, explained during the agency’s 92nd annual campaign kickoff Tuesday evening that everyone is the chairperson this year as the United Way continues its mission to raise funds to help community organizations throughout the region.
“It’s everybody,” she said before the start of the program at the Stanley Theatre Center for the Arts. “Typically we have one person who is the spokesperson for the campaign, but we recognize what we’ve known all along. The success of the campaign doesn’t rest on just one person’s shoulders.”
The lobby at the Stanley filled with United Way donors and volunteers to jumpstart the kickoff. A video presentation included a review of the services the United Way has provided throughout the year, and continues to provide throughout the region.
The kickoff was an interactive one this year, with each speaker starting off with “I’m the chair” and with attendees replying with “No, I’m the chair.” Also, a face cutout poster was at the entrance of the lobby for people to pose and get their picture to show they are the chair.
The campaign got off to a $35,000 start, with a $10,000 donation from IBEW/NECA Local 43 and a $25,000 donation from UFCW. The organizations presented checks to United Way representatives during the event.
“They’re a great bunch of people doing great things,” said Pat Costello, representative with the IBEW/NECA Local 43.
No goal was announced for the campaign this year. Instead, individuals are being asked to set a personal goal for the campaign, which started July 1 and will go to June 30, 2014. Individuals are being asked to “give, advocate and volunteer and to tell at least one person why you Live United,” according to the agency’s Live United Annual Report 2012.
The campaign results for 2012 - 2013 totaled $2,360,901, according to the annual report.
Lt. John Wood, corps officer for the Salvation Army in Herkimer, said the United Way plays an integral role with its programs.
“They give us guidance on how to get grants for our food pantry and soup kitchen,” said Wood, who attended the kick-off. “They keep us aware of the opportunities available for us to keep our programs going.”
The Salvation Army and Catholic Charities of Herkimer County received a portion of the 1,000 pounds of school supplies collected by the United Way in August to help in-need children going back to school.
The United Way assisted Herkimer County this year in dealing with two major crises that faced the community.
Page 2 of 2 - According to the annual report, the agency “created a ‘Valley Unmet Needs Fund’ to allow community members to give monetary donations to address unmet needs beyond immediate victim assistance” after the March 13 shooting in Herkimer and Mohawk.
The report continued, “In collaboration with the assigned victims’ advocate, a panel of local community members allocated nearly $8,000 that was collected, to address unmet needs following the event.”
The agency also conducted a “The Valley Heals: Helping Each Other” event on June 4 at Herkimer County Community College, in partnership with HCCC, Hospice and Palliative Care, the Herkimer ARC, Herkimer County, Pioneer Spray Foam and Pioneer Property Restoration.
The United Way created a flood recovery fund “to give community members a safe, trusted way to donate money to support flood recovery efforts,” according to the annual report. A telethon, with the help of WKTV and Roser Communications, raised nearly $188,000 in pledges.
Also according to the annual report, “half of the funds raised went to immediate relief, providing food, shelter and mental health screening to flood-effected people through the American Red Cross and Salvation Army. The remaining half of the funds raised is reserved to meet longer-term needs.”
The United Way is a local, independent nonprofit organization funding area programs and services, providing a safety net for the community and addressing crucial community issues in the impact areas of health, education and income.
For more information or to donate to the annual campaign, go to www.unitedwaygu.org or call 733-4691.