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United Way continues fund drive; new generation chips in

MIDDLEBURY — The United Way of Addison County has thus far raised $390,000 toward its 2019-2020 campaign goal of $635,000, leaving $245,000 to raise before the books close on the annual fund drive at the end of June.
“This is the time of year where giving tends to slow down, and we could certainly use the support,” UWAC Executive Director Helena Van Voorst said on Monday.
The UWAC annually raises money to help some 30 local nonprofit partners, including Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects, Elderly Services Inc. and the Mary Johnson Children’s Center. Employees from approximately 40 participating Addison County businesses contribute to UWAC through a payroll deduction plan. The organization also offers three special levels of giving that include 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). But no contribution is too small.
Looking at current giving trends, Van Voorst acknowledged, “I think our workplace giving continues to be a challenge. It seems to be trending down, and I’d like to see it pick back up by having more workplaces have campaigns. That would be a tremendous help.”
But Van Voorst is also seeing some positive signs.
United Way leaders last year created two new ways to contribute: The “Addison County 365 Small Business Circle,” and the “Emerging Leaders of Addison County” group. They’ve provided an outlet for local businesspeople to contribute to special causes and to associate while learning more about the Addison County nonprofits they’re assisting.
“We’ve had a really strong start to the campaign,” Van Voorst said. “We’ve been pleased to see a wonderful response to the Emerging Leaders and 365 Small Business Circle initiatives. Both have met what we hoped for our year-one goals at this point. We have gained 14 new, young donors as part of our Emerging Leaders, and participation in the events we’ve been hosting has surpassed our expectations. So that’s been wonderful.”
Nine small businesses have each given $1,000 toward the 2019 UWAC campaign, and that $9,000 yield is just $1,000 short of the total the United Way had envisioned for the business circle debut.
“The response to the small business circle has been very positive,” Van Voorst said. “We’d love to see that continue to grow.”
Members of the “Emerging Leaders” group are really connecting well together and seem committed to becoming part of the next generation of UWAC donors, United Way officials said. Among the events that are bringing these “Emerging Leaders” together: A series of monthly “lunch-and-learns” and which attendees meet up, have a meal, and listen to an informative presentation. The kick-off lunch-and-learn at WhistlePig in Shoreham drew around 45 people, according to Van Voorst. Attendees have been leaning about such charitable organizations as WomenSafe, John Graham Housing & Services and the Counseling Service of Addison County.
“Part of what we heard when we started speaking with potential emerging leaders and young professionals in the county was that they wanted the opportunity to connect with each other and with the community,” Van Voorst said. “We have a booked a year of lunch-and-learns at this point with community leaders, mostly with UWAC connections. After that, as we look to next year, the steering committee might choose to hold their own lunch-and-learns and encourage emerging leaders to just speak about professional skills they have, or what they do for work.”
The UWAC likes to invest in nonprofit programming that contributes to the health, education and financial stability of Addison County, according to its literature. Each year, the organization selects one of the aforementioned three categories in which to make a special investment that it calls “community impact funding.” While the focus last year was “health,” the UWAC’s 2019 campaign priority is “education.”
“We make three-year grant commitments, but they’re dependent on the success of our fundraising effort,” Van Voorst explained. “So if we’re not able to meet our goals, we aren’t able to fulfill those grant amounts.”
For 2018, the UWAC was able to award a combined total of $111,080 to health-related charities.
“Last year, we had double the amount of requests than we had money available to invest in those programs, and I anticipate it will be similar this year,’ Van Voorst lamented. “We’ll be announcing the request for proposals by the end of the month, so this is the time we really need the community’s support so we know what we have available for our educational partners.”
United Way officials are currently training volunteers to review community impact funding requests. They’ll spend the month of March independently reviewing the requests, then the month of April visiting and meeting with the applicant organizations before beginning the difficult process of deciding how to allocate limited funds for the good of Addison County.

ORGANIZATION CHANGES
In other UWAC news, the organization mourned the loss of a longtime supporter and welcomed into the fold a new employee.
Former UWAC Board President John Dale died unexpectedly at his Middlebury home on Jan. 8. He had served on the board for six years until last summer, but was always available to give advice to UWAC officials.
“He continued helping us look into things that will impact the future of this organization by providing his professional advice and support,” Van Voorst said. “He was a wonderful ambassador for United Way and the community.”
At the same time, the UWAC is welcoming its new marketing and development director, Erin Reed. She succeed Amy Bodette Barr.
“She comes with a rich marketing background and we’re very excited to have her,” Van Voorst said of Reed, who resides in Addison.
“We’re delighted to have her start.”
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.
Attention UWAC supporters: “Spin United” will take place this Sunday, Jan. 26, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Middlebury Fitness. There are still a bunch of spaces for spinners during the 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. hours. If you don’t like spinning, you can support a spinner through the UWAC’s website, unitedwayaddisoncounty.org.

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