PLATTSBURGH - The United Way of Clinton and Essex Counties Inc. has begun a new year of fundraising and with a new name.
The nonprofit organization - which helps more than 35 partner agencies - has now expanded to encompass Franklin County and has adopted the name United Way of the Adirondack Region. The expansion occurred in June, and was a process several months long following the former United Way of Franklin County losing its affiliation with the national United Way last October.
John C. Bernardi, executive director of the United Way of the Adirondack Region, said there have been a number of challenges in reestablishing a United Way presence in Franklin County, but not any that have been insurmountable.
"We see the three counties as a regional community. We don't necessarily break each out separately," said Bernardi. "We see that we're all neighbors and that we all have common needs and aspirations. United Way is a mechanism that helps connect people so that we can make sure that the needs of the community are being met."
The inclusion of Franklin County into the local United Way's focus has meant expanding not only its focus, but also its fundraising efforts, said Bernardi. This year's fundraising campaign team will look to raise $750,000 - a $50,000 increase over last year's campaign. The additional amount, however, is not solely because of the organization's increased coverage area, Bernardi noted.
"It's what we feel is a reasonable and attainable goal for our region," said Bernardi, who noted the local United Way hadn't increased its $700,000 fundraising goal since 2007. "We knew we'd eventually need to raise our goal. We know that's the amount we need to meet the needs of the community."
Kirk A. Stallsmith, chairman of this year's fundraising campaign, said increasing the amount raised will be only a part of the team's mission.
"Our primary objective in the campaign this year is to increase participation in all three counties," said Stallsmith. "It's not always just [increasing] the dollar amount. The more you get participating, that builds the overall opportunity to increase fundraising efforts."
Stallsmith, a seasoned member of both the local United Way's fundraising team and board of directors, feels the goal is attainable, given the generosity of the North Country in past years.
"I see a group that's excited. We just have to keep everybody engaged," said Stallsmith. "I think the biggest challenge will be the geographic reach."
That reach is something fundraising campaign team members like Scott Wilson doesn't view as a problem. That's because the local United Way has worked with OneWorkSource to establish satellite offices in Malone and Elizabethtown to ensure there is stronger representation for the organization outside the Plattsburgh area.
"I'm very excited about the satellite offices we have in each county now," said Wilson. "It's great to have those additions for the local communities."
"We needed to have a physical presence there," Bernardi said of the Essex and Franklin county locations. "We'll be able to hold group meetings and host functions while promoting OneWorkSource. It's mutually beneficial for us to be there."
The enhanced presence in Essex and Franklin counties will also help combat an incorrect perception that organizations in those counties don't benefit from United Way of the Adirondack Region. Organizations like the Joint Council for Economic Opportunity of Clinton and Franklin Counties, Literacy Volunteers of Essex and Franklin Counties, and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Champlain Valley are just a few of the ones that help areas beyond the Plattsburgh area, said Bernardi.
"I run it to that all the time," Bernardi said of the misconceptions. "Field offices help offset that idea and show people we're more than just Tom Miller Road, Plattsburgh ... We are very regional in nature, and we're all connected, whether we're in Ticonderoga, Tupper Lake, or Malone. We're all connected from one town to the next, in a variety of ways."
Though this year's fundraising campaign team met for the first time July 16, the official kick-off for the 2010-11 fundraising campaign won't take place until this September. Details are currently being finalized.
Those interested in more information about making a contribution to United Way of the Adirondack Region may call 563-0028 or visit www.unitedwayadk.org.