United Way of the Adirondack Region, Inc. Executive Director John Bernardi, left, and the 2013 Campaign Chair Gayle Alexander helped raise $736,250 to support local agencies during the United Way’s 2012 campaign.
The United Way of the Adirondack Region, Inc. raised most of its campaign goal for 2012.
Even though they fell short—the campaign brought in $736,250, that’s $38,750 less than the goal of $775,000—United Way volunteers said that isn't anything to be ashamed of.
“For us, it isn’t just about measuring the dollars and cents, it’s about measuring the level of impact we’re able to make throughout the region,” said John Bernardi, Executive Director of United Way of the Adirondack Region. “We do anticipate that we will be able to substantially meet the health and human service needs at a similar level to past years, and for that we’re very proud,”
Those service needs include 41 health and human-service organizations in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties, whose agencies provide help to about 80,000 people throughout the region each year.
“I always prayed that we would be able to meet the needs of the North Country and at 95 percent, that’s what we got,” said Gayle Alexander, the 2013 Campaign Chair.
Dan Alexander, the 2009 Campaign Chair, said several factors, such as a sluggish economy and 2012’s looming fiscal cliff, might have contributed to the United Way falling short of its goal, but that those things were just evidence of a greater good amongst North Country citizens.
“This perhaps may compare to an overwhelmingly greater amount of generosity from people this year than in past years,” Mr. Alexander said. “The amount that was raised in this economy is an overwhelming success.”
The United Way has been collecting donations and distributing 100 percent of them to various local agencies and charities since 1949.
Since so many organizations need help, there is an extensive process to allocating the funds.
Some donations are designated by donors to go directly toward specific agencies but other funds, like the community impact fund, are available to partner agencies on a competitive basis.
A volunteer board of community members reviews applications for funding and makes a recommendations to the United Way Board of Directors, who makes the final decisions.
“In many respects, that’s what makes the United Way so unique,” Bernardi said. “There are so many levels of accountability and impact for the community, and every dollar is used for its intended purpose.”
Bernardi said that another unique benefit of donating to the United Way is that donors can contribute via payroll deductions.
Many smaller agencies and charities don’t have the resources to offer that service.
The benefit, Bernardi said, is that it might be easier for someone to give $10 a week than to give $500 in one lump sum.
Of all the services the United Way helps support, Bernardi said mental health is one that has needed assistance most in recent years.
Dale Anne Wolter, who co-leads the Champlain Valley Chapter of the Compassionate Friends with her friend, Sophie Mitsglou, echoed the need for more funding for mental health services.
The group helps family members who have experienced the death of a child deal with grief in a positive way.
“I’m so used to fundraising now, but when you lose a child, those are funds you don’t want to raise,” Wolter said.
Both Wolter and Mitsglou have lost a child in a car accident, and they helped each other go through the grieving process.
They have been involved with Compassionate Friends for about 15 years, and Woltner began volunteering for the United Way about 3 years ago.
Now, she said her own group is able to receive the money it needs and she is able to reach out further into her community.
“I had no idea of the vastness of how the United Way helps people,” Woltner said. “I now understand the number of other agencies that also need help, so we can better budget for Compassionate Friends and help get everyone the funding they need.”