WEST PLATTSBURGH - And, they're off.
The United Way of Clinton and Essex Counties Inc. officially marked the beginning of their 2009-10 fundraising efforts with their annual fundraising campaign kick-off breakfast at American Legion Post 1619 Sept. 10. The event included the announcement this year's campaign team will again seek to raise $700,000 to benefit the 33 partner agencies of the local United Way.
John C. Bernardi, the nonprofit organization's executive director, announced "pacesetters" - businesses and individuals who begin early fundraising efforts - have so far raised $151,426.62, bringing the campaign to 21.6 percent of its overall goal.
Bernardi credited the success of the campaign's start to the "good cross-section" of those in the community who continue to lend a hand to the United Way.
"We're well-represented and it's just a tremendous asset, I think, to be so strongly supported by such a wide range of groups and individuals," said Bernardi. "We're truly blessed in this region in many ways. Mainly because people get involved and they're compassionate and they're caring towards their friends and their neighbors. It really shows."
Though Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, which has facilities in Rouses Point and Chazy, has traditionally made a contribution toward the local United Way campaign, this year's donation was in question, said Bernardi. With the sale of the Wyeth corporation to pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. announced earlier this year and transition of the Rouses Point facility to Akrimax Pharmaceutical currently under way, there was concern whether or not Wyeth would be able to continue to give, Bernardi said.
"I've been a little worried about it," admitted Bernardi. "And, it went from bleak to promising to bleak to promising to delightful, thankfully."
In the days leading up to the campaign kick-off breakfast, Bernardi learned Wyeth would indeed make a corporate donation of $32,521, and the employees of both the Rouses Point and Chazy facilities will again conduct employee fundraising campaigns.
Though there was no novelty check presentation from Wyeth as in years passed, company representative Tammy Lashway was in attendance for the breakfast, standing as Bernardi recognized Wyeth for the contribution.
Lashway later said the donation was part of Wyeth's continued commitment to the North Country.
"I think it's very important," she said of the donation. "We need to support our community."
Champlain National Bank also surprised Bernardi and the fundraising team this year, again nearly doubling their amount raised. The bank's employees raised $2,000 in the 2006-07 campaign year, doubling that amount the following year and doubling that amount the year after.
Given the state of the national economic climate and that Champlain National Bank had a recent reduction in its number of employees, Bernardi said he didn't expect the business to be able to raise as much as in previous years. But, they did.
"We just figured they were maxed out. I mean, you can't double it every year. It's not realistic," said Bernardi.
Gail Bridge, human resources director for Champlain National Bank, said bank president Jon Cooper challenged his employees to do just that, and they came close.
"We showed him what his team can do. We raised $15,000," said Bridge.
More big news came from Nine Platt Hospitality Group, which raised $10,121, which was the largest amount from the local business in the past seven years.
Other pacesetter contributions include Abbott, Frenyea, Russell & Coffey, $1,899; Agency Insurance, $1,855; Alan B. & Jennifer Booth, $3,500; Child Care Coordinating Council of the North Country, $2,792; Donlan and Barcomb Investment Services, $1,000; Eye Care for the Adirondacks, $10,007.10; FirstView Eye Care, $1,000; Landrock E & S Consulting, $1,000; Mountain Lake PBS, $378; Murnane Building Contractors, $2,000; Niles, Piller & Bracy, Attorneys at Law, $750; Northern Insuring Agency, $9,000.08; and Stewart's Shops, $1,800.
The Child Care Coordinating Council of the North Country and Northern Insuring Agency were also recognized for having 100 employee participation.
Partial contributions to date include Denton Publications, $5,200; ETS, $1,040; Georgia Pacific, $8,253; Plattsburgh City School District, $4,210; TD BankNorth, $3,600; The Northeast Group, $1,500; and UPS - SCS, $6,890.
Additional contributions from individuals and other miscellaneous organizations total $26,110.44.
The amount raised thus far is encouraging, said Jamie L. Basiliere, executive director of the Child Care Coordinating Council of the North Country, who serves as chairperson of this year's United Way fundraising campaign team.
"I believe that we will exceed the goal," said Basiliere, who is serving the campaign team for her 11th year. "I believe for those people who are employed, who have a campaign within their organization or within their business, that they will give because of the economy, not in spite of it."
Though pacesetters are an important part of getting the campaign moving, said Bernardi, every donation is just as important as the last, he noted.
"Every penny is important," said Bernardi, "whether it comes in today or whether it comes in in December."
Those wishing to make contributions toward the local United Way campaign may send donations in care of United Way of Clinton and Essex Counties to 45 Tom Miller Road, Plattsburgh N.Y. 12901. Donations may also be arranged through a payroll deduction, which may be arranged through one's employer.
For more information, contact the local United Way office at 563-0028 or visit www.unitedwayce.org.