United Way sets $650,000 fundraising goal

MIDDLEBURY — The United Way of Addison County (UWAC) has historically enlisted a lot of local movers-and-shakers to head up its annual fund drives. This year’s team is also formidable, and comes with a special blessing.
Ira Schiffer, associate Rabbi/Chaplain at Middlebury College, will co-chair the United Way’s 2016 campaign with his wife, Linda, who is coordinator of the institution’s Cook Commons. Together, they will work with UWAC staff in an effort to raise at least $650,000 to support more than two-dozen Addison County nonprofits that dispense food, clothing, counseling, transportation and other vital services to area low-income residents.
This year’s goal is $50,000 less than last year’s target of $700,000, which ultimately yielded donations totaling $680,000, according to Nancy Luke, UWAC’s manager of development and marketing. The more modest goal this year recognizes the economy, competing charities and a recent change in donor demographics, according to United Way officials.
“The reality is that we had some lovely, wonderful, longtime donors move away to be closer to their children,” Luke said.
These longtime donors were giving individually to UWAC in some of the highest categories, including the “leadership society” category of $1,000 to $1,249; the “Robert Frost Society” level of $1,250 to $9,999; and an “Alexis de Tocqueville Society” of more than $10,000 annually.
So local United Way officials, in concert with the Schiffers, will be diligently casting about for new individual donors and additional businesses to join its payroll deduction campaign. At the same time, the UWAC will be reshaping its outreach to better capture the attention of younger prospects. That means giving the fund drive more of a plug on social media and other electronic platforms.
“We want to use all the technology and outreach (options) that are available to us,” Luke said. “We are expanding our menu of options to connect.”
Until recently, the Addison County Retired Senior Volunteer program, or RSVP, ran the United Way’s “volunteer center.” UWAC has now brought that function back into its fold, under the supervision of a new, part-time hire (Jessie Brooks) who will increasingly incorporate social media into volunteer recruitment, according to UWAC Executive Director Kate McGowan.
A new United Way volunteer webpage can be accessed through unitedwayaddisoncounty.org.
“She has a lot of energy and new ideas,” Luke said of Brooks.
Meanwhile, UWAC officials officially launched the 2016 fund drive on Thursday, Sept. 22, with the traditional “Days of Caring” event. It is on these two days (Sept. 22 and 24) that volunteers from local businesses, non-profits and area households will flock to various local social services agencies to help out. While painting, doing paperwork or running errands, the volunteers will get a first-hand sense of how those UWAC-supported agencies help the county’s less fortunate citizens.
This year’s Days of Caring has attracted 20 participating businesses and organizations who are proving a combined total of 675 volunteers, including college students, high school students and Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center students, according to Luke. They are volunteering at 50 non-profit sites.
Beyond that, there will be additional special events at which people can help advance this year’s United Way campaign. They will include a “Dine United Way” benefit in October through November, during which participating restaurants will donate a percentage of their proceeds to UWAC; a raffle at the Oct. 8 Middlebury College football game; a “SPIN United” cycling benefit on Jan. 22, 2017; a “United in Harmony” music benefit on March 18, 2017; and a community celebration- May 25, 2017.
Look for more details for these and other United Way of Addison County fundraising events in future editions of the Independent.
The Schiffers are looking forward to taking a lead role in the United Way’s quest for donations. It was UWAC staff that reached out to the well-liked and much-respected couple. Linda Schiffer’s contributions to the yearly UWAC effort date back to 2001, soon after she and her husband arrived in the community.
“We will help Kate and Nancy where they need it,” Linda said. “If they want us to be some place, that’s where we’ll go.”
At the same time, she promised she and her husband would “wear (the campaign) on our sleeves” in an effort to encourage donations from friends, families and colleagues.
“We’ll let them know what we’re doing, and why we are doing it,” Linda said.
The Schiffers said they firmly believe in the United Way’s mission and the advantages of having an organization that addresses multiple needs, from housing to counseling for drug dependency.
“I very much believe that it takes a village,” Linda said, alluding to the notion of attacking poverty on multiple fronts by many in the community.
Ira Schiffer said that by being connected to so many local human services agencies, the UWAC has the advantage of a “crow’s nest” kind of vantage point in seeing, and addressing, low-income residents’ needs. And it’s a vantage point that makes the United Way a very credible and effective lobbying organization at the state level, Ira added.
“The United Way, I think, is positioning itself to be more than just a First Aid approach to problems individuals face,” he said.
But for now, it’s all about getting folks to collectively chip in to meet a $650,000 goal.
“Achieving the goal would be huge,” Linda said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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