Editorial: UWAC launches new initiatives

The United Way of Addison County has a conundrum it must hurdle each year due, in large part, to its own success.

Because it has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on the community for the past 60 or so years, and raised millions of dollars over that time, the challenge for its annual fundraising is to: 1) reach that very high bar on which many smaller agencies now depend on; and, 2) make the annual giving campaign appear fresh, full of vitality, and new.

United Way leaders, nonetheless, can’t change things too much, because they don’t want to mess around with what has worked so well in the past — supporting 17 area agencies with more than $325,000 annually in recent years.

But credit a young, energetic and creative team at the United Way of Addison County, lead by executive Director Helena D. Van Voorst, for launching a few brilliant new programs.

In particular, we would highlight The “Addison County 365 Small Business Circle,” and the “Emerging Leaders of Addison County” group.

The Business Circle will provide “busy entrepreneurs, business owners, and managers an opportunity to sponsor a lot of important, high-visibility events, and make a significant impact on the lives of people in your community — with just one gift,” touts the campaign literature. At a dollar a day, or two, three or four, a business can sign on to year-around program that gives them significant marketing exposure — as well as customized ways to give back to your community — for suggested donation ranges of $365 to $1,460 per year.

The local United Way is also paring up with the Addison County Chamber of Commerce to launch the “Emerging Leaders” group. The concept is simple — offer young people (loosely defined as age 40 and younger) opportunities to network at regular “lunch and learn” and “off the clock” social/educational events to get more knowledge about Addison County issues and then rally around community building activities. Both endeavors are working to build the next wave of United Way campaign donors.

With a 2019-20 campaign goal of $635,000, reaching out to new donors to broaden the pool is a necessity, but what makes it exciting is the prospect for that cohort to develop deep connections to the various organizations served. Getting personally involved with the programs that help thousands of people each year is precisely the way to attract new interest because once you see how your donation helps, once you’ve put a few hours into volunteer work, once you’ve looked into the eyes of a neighbor who thanks you for caring enough to give, you’re hooked.


We encourage all Addison County residents to spend a few minutes reading through the 12-page special section in today’s Addison Independent. Learn how UWAC spends the money it receives and to which organizations it goes; learn about HELP, the drug prevention program, and about a program to help area residents complete their tax returns at no cost. Read about the “Stuff the Bus” campaign that in the past three years provided “back to school” supplies to 788 kids who otherwise would not have had the basic tools every pupil needs.

And mark the words of Vergennes resident and 2019-2020 Campaign Chair Abby Blum who notes: “No single organization can do everything alone. That’s why United Way of Addison County is an appealing organization to support if you care about collaboration, maximizing shared resources, and ensuring that your donation has the greatest impact possible… Working closely with local leaders from many different sectors, we’re fighting to improve the health, education, and financial stability of everyone who calls Addison County home. We need your help.”

Remember, too, that even a pledge of $2 a week (about the cost of a cup of coffee) makes a difference. If you can, you’ll also discover why this campaign is so successful, year after year — the reward of giving is far greater than the amount you give.

Angelo S. Lynn

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Addison County Independent