United Way launches $660K fund drive

ADDISON COUNTY — The United Way of Addison County on Sept. 21 officially launched its 2018 fund drive with a new goal, under new leadership.

UWAC officials have set a target of $660,000 for this year’s fund drive, which is $10,000 more than last year’s goal of $650,000 and the first time in several years the organization has set a higher financial target than the previous year. Money raised will help a variety of Addison County nonprofits providing such services as childcare, food and mental health counseling to area residents in need.

John and Amy Dale of Middlebury are co-chairing this year’s campaign.

John Dale will indeed be a high-profile person this year for United Way of Addison County, or UWAC. Along with campaign responsibilities, he’s leading the United Way board during this, his sixth and final year on that panel.

“Hopefully I’ll leave with a bang,” Dale said with a smile.

The Dales will receive a lot of support from two new UWAC administrators: Executive Director Helena Van Vorst and Amy Bodette Barr, manager of development and marketing.

Around 100 people gathered at the Vergennes Opera House on Sept. 21 to herald the United Way’s latest fundraising effort. Attendees also saluted UWAC’s 50th birthday and gratefully noted last year’s campaign exceeded by $15,000 what was a goal of $650,000. Exceeding a yearly financial goal has become increasingly difficult for long-established charitable organizations like United Way, which are competing with an ever growing list of other causes for limited philanthropic dollars.

The community has raised and re-invested more than $17 million back into Addison County during UWAC’s 50 years, according to Van Vorst.

The way people give is changing, and the UWAC board on Monday acknowledged this by voting unanimously to end its longstanding tradition of asking its partner nonprofits to suspend their individual fundraising efforts between late September and Thanksgiving, when the annual United Way campaign is in full swing.

“The board felt it was contrary to our mission, to restrict anyone from giving to our funded partners,” Van Vorst said. “We encourage that our partners continue to fundraise and support of the work they’re doing in Addison County. We do ask that they reflect our support of them, but we encourage them to ‘go for it.’

“We want to support the work they’re doing in every way possible, and that includes encouraging gifts to those organizations,” Van Vorst added. “If we’re building the right relationships with our donors — and I feel we have a long history of doing that — I’m not worried about the impact to our campaign.”

Prior to joining United Way in June, Van Vorst had served as development director of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. She was one of 40 applicants for the top United Way job vacated last December by Kate McGowan, now the interim director of Brattleboro’s Center for New Leadership.

Providing key support to Van Vorst in the United Way office will be Barr, who will officially join the agency in three weeks. She currently serves as marketing and development coordinator for the Vergennes Partnership, an organization charged with overseeing the health of the city’s downtown.

Barr succeeds Nancy Luke, who recently left to become a regional director for the American Heart Association.

As usual, UWAC will bring attention to its campaign — and the needs of the nonprofits it is supporting — at its annual “Days of Caring,” slated for Thursday, Sept. 27, and Saturday, Sept. 29. A combined total of 320 volunteers, ranging from teens to retirees, will converge on 27 local nonprofits to help with chores ranging from grant writing to washing windows.

Many of the helpers will be on loan from Addison County businesses, as well as Middlebury College.

There will be plenty of opportunities between now and next June for people to contribute to the United Way’s 2018 fund drive.

Many local businesses continue to offer payroll deduction options for employees to set aside their United Way contributions. The organization also solicits individual contributions at the following levels: Leadership Society ($1,000 to $1,249), Robert Frost Society ($1,250 to $9,999), and the Alexis de Tocqueville Society ($10,000 to $24,999).

Folks are additionally being asked to invest in the future of their local United Way and the nonprofits it serves.

As part of its landmark 50th birthday, UWAC last year established a “Legacy Society” endowment fund that will be built with 50 independent gifts of more than $1,000, in the form of charitable annuities and cash contributions. Once established, the Legacy Society money will be combined with an existing $1.1 million UWAC endowment fund. That pot of money will be invested and generate income that would help bridge shortfalls in future Unite Way fund drives.

SPECIAL EVENTS

In the meantime, people should stay tuned this fall and winter for special events to raise money for the 2015 campaign.

There will be a “Spin United” challenge in which participants get friends and family to sponsor them for a marathon stationary bicycle spinning session. Last year’s riders pedaled their way to more than $11,000 for the cause.

A “Dine the United Way” will see participating restaurants donate to UWAC a small percentage or set amount from meal receipts on a given day or days.

Middlebury College has scheduled a UWAC benefit raffle for its Oct. 6 home football game against Amherst.

Though she just joined the United Way, Van Vorst is well aware of its importance to the community and its most vulnerable citizens.

“The programs supported through the community’s contributions serve our neighbors, friends, and family during every stage of their life,” she said. “When a young mom turns to WomenSafe for help, she may also rely on the Open Door Clinic for health care, Mary Johnson Children’s Center for early education for her child, Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects for fresh vegetables and other basic needs, the Turning Point Center for recovery support, Vermont Adult Learning for GED certification, and Addison County Transit Resources to get her to all those places.

“Working so closely with these and our 20 other funded partners gives UWAC the unique position of both identifying and addressing gaps in service and looking for opportunities to build and support collaboration. A gift to UWAC is a holistic gift that benefits the whole community.”

Check unitedwayaddisoncounty.org and the Addison Independent for future updates on United Way events.

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.


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