Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM In 2006 employees of the town of Agawam made a choice to donate part of their paychecks to aid those in need through the United Way of the Pioneer Valley. Little did they know then they would set a record total of $13,036, a 60 percent increase from 2005.
Last Wednesday Mayor Richard Cohen, Public Sector Campaign Chairman co-hosted the United Way Public Sector Kick-Off luncheon along with the town of Agawam and the United Way to officially launch the 2007 fundraising campaign.
"For every dollar that we give it comes back to each community tenfold," Cohen said. "We are very fortunate that Agawam employees are very generous to others in need."
He added that it is the obligation of not only Agawam employees but people everywhere to "end homelessness and hunger" and by giving to the United Way this organization can help to "correct these situations."
By donating locally, Agawam employees and others have the opportunity to fund programs such as health and wellness services, family support services, elderly services for people ages 62 and over, children and youth-at-risk services for children ages zero to 12 and food and shelter services for the homeless.
Additionally the United Way officially launched their 2-1-1 program in April, which is a free, confidential information line and referral service from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. By calling 2-1-1 people in Massachusetts have the opportunity to locate services for anything from childcare to mental health and fuel assistance services through a statewide database.
Sarah Tanner, vice president of resource development at the United Way said the 2-1-1 call line allows the organization to track which services are most needed in the Pioneer Valley. She added that the most pressing issues in this area are child safety and child poverty.
Joel Weiss, president and CEO of the United Way stressed the importance of not only raising money but to establish partnerships with members, agencies, programs and donors in order to discover which services are most important to those in need. He added that the ultimate goal of the United Way is to provide "healthier, safer communities."
"All of the money raised is money well spent with sustainable results," Michael Katz, United Way Campaign Chairman said.
He emphasized the importance of thanking donors and explaining the missions of the United Way so that employees in the Pioneer Valley "want to give rather than feeling forced to give for things they don't understand."
Katz said explaining services such as the 2-1-1 program allows employers and employees to know "where to turn for services."
Cohen said four town of Agawam employees and members of the Public Sector Committee will be visiting the various departments beginning Oct. 25 to give a presentation and distribute donor forms.
Agawam employees will have the opportunity to donate $3 through weekly payroll deduction or a onetime donation of $156. Upon donation each employee will receive an extra incentive day for 2008.
Cohen said he and his committee will be working diligently to raise funds until their deadline next month in order to have a "record breaking year."
For more information on the United Way of Pioneer Valley call 737-2691 or visit their Web site at www.uwpv.org.