County’s United Way seeks to raise $720,000

MIDDLEBURY — The United Way of Addison County is launching its 2014 fund drive this week with a new financial goal, new campaign co-chairs and some new strategies aimed at encouraging more charitable giving at a time when the need for philanthropy is at an all-time high.
The nonprofit UWAC, which raises funds each year to distribute among a variety of local charitable causes ranging from shelter for the homeless to hospice care, has set a goal of raising $720,0000 for this campaign. That’s $5,000 less than last year’s goal of $725,000, a target that the United Way unfortunately fell around $35,000 short of meeting.
“It’s a little less than last year’s goal and a little more than we actually made,” UWAC Executive Director Kate McGowan said of the $720,000 goal. “(The new goal) reflects what (donors) have demonstrated so far, with the reminder that we’re always asked to do more. The need is much greater than what we have been able to raise during the past two years.”
McGowan noted the economy has not improved for everyone, and the United Way has been asked to assist financially with some new human services initiatives. Among them: An effort to raise $25,000 to fund programming to assist Addison County residents struggling with opiate addiction.
The United Way of Addison County was scheduled to kick off its 2014 fund drive this Thursday, Sept. 25, and Saturday, Sept. 27, with its annual “Days of Caring.” On those days scores of community volunteers are assigned various tasks helping the local nonprofits that annually benefit from United Way funding. Dozens of local businesses were set to release many of their workers on Sept. 25 to assist organizations like Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects with chores like interior painting at HOPE’s Boardman Street headquarters.
As of Monday, a record 780 volunteers had signed up to participate in the Days of Caring.
Among those who will be pitching in: United Way of Addison County 2014 Campaign Co-chairs Karl Lindholm and Brett Millier, an energetic husband-and-wife team that has long supported the United Way’s mission.
“United Way is one of our most important commitments from year to year,” the Cornwall couple said through a joint statement confirming their leadership role. “It expresses for us the connection we feel for our friends and neighbors as members of this community.”
Nancy Luke, the UWAC’s manager of development and marketing, said the organization will deliver its message to donors through such familiar methods as presentations at local businesses, solicitation letters and phone calls, and special events. But the United Way this year has also formed some new subcommittees to better target and extend its outreach.
United Way has this year commissioned Lincoln artist Reed Prescott to create artwork for its printed solicitation materials. Prescott produced a painting showing a view of downtown Bristol’s intersection — including Holley Hall — as seen from North Street. UWAC and Prescott will sell postcard and print versions, as well as the original, with the artist and the United Way splitting the proceeds 50-50. Next year, and in future years, UWAC will invite all interested Addison County artists to compete for the job of furnishing artwork for the fund drive. The artwork will be shown and the community will choose the winning artist, according to Luke.
“It’s a win-win,” McGowan said of the benefit to the United Way and artist.
Meanwhile, Millier and Lindholm are eager to get started raising the temperature on the symbolic United Way 2014 campaign thermometer that will be placed off Middlebury’s Main Street to provide periodic updates on the fundraising success.
The couple explained that they had considered co-chairing the campaign in past years, but professional and family commitments had prevented them from doing so. They recently returned from an almost year-long residency in the West African nation of Cameroon, and now with their children older find themselves with enough time to give to the UWAC effort.
Lindholm calls himself “mostly retired” from a 35-year career as Middlebury College’s Dean of Students and assistant professor of American Studies. He has served as a United Way of Addison County board member.
Millier is the Reginald L. Cook Professor of American Literature and Chair of the Department of English and American Literatures at Middlebury College. She has been a member of the Middlebury faculty since 1986. She has previously chaired the United Way fund drive at Middlebury College.
“We have been giving to the United Way for a long time and believe it is possibly the most efficient kind of giving you could possibly do,” Millier said.
Lindholm said it is particularly gratifying to help an organization like the United Way, in which he has full confidence.
“This is a very, very important commitment to us,” he said. “It’s reassuring and important to know the donation that we make is expended right here in our community. Together, (Brett and I) have almost 70 years of life here in Addison County. We have friends that work for the agencies that participate in the United Way and we know people who benefit from the services of the agencies of the United Way. It’s immediate, it’s local, and it’s not money we are sending off to a giant corporate entity.”
Together, Millier and Lindholm will make pitches as needed to prospective donors and to businesses being recruited to participate in the United Way’s payroll deduction program.
“They will be our ambassadors,” McGowan said.
And the challenge will be big. McGowan noted that UWAC has been seeing a 4-percent increase each year in requests from social service agencies. Unfortunately, donations have not been keeping pace.
“We are being asked to do more and more,” McGowan said. “We would love to keep pace with the requests.”
Anyone interested in contributing to this year’s United Way of Addison County campaign should visit the organization’s website at unitedwayaddisoncounty.org, or call 388-7189.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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