|By Katelyn Gendron|
Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM Late last month Public Sector Campaign Chairman Mayor Richard Cohen called for a record-breaking year for the 2007 United Way Fundraising Campaign.
His call on behalf of the United Way and the thousands of people aided by their organization in the Pioneer Valley has officially been answered by Agawam's municipal employees.
Once again they have set a record-breaking year, beating last year's donations by almost $3,000. Overall Agawam employees raised $15,320 for the United Way of the Pioneer Valley by participating in a weekly payroll deduction of $3 or more or by making a flat donation of $156.
Cohen said he was extremely pleased with the results and the employees' willingness to continue their support each year. He added that there is a persistent need in the Pioneer Valley for the numerous services provided by the United Way. Cohen stressed the importance of fundraising campaigns, which will allow such human relief efforts to continue their valuable work.
"The need for dollars has increased dramatically and every penny that is raised will help to support needed programs in our communities," Michael Katz, United Way Campaign chairman, said. "It's important to see that the public is responding to this crisis."
Katz added that he believes the 2007 fundraising efforts have been so successful because the United Way has emphasized the importance of educating donors about the allocation of their donations.
According to the United Way, a Community Needs Assessment has illuminated the areas with the greatest need and helped to dictate where the funds should be allocated within the Pioneer Valley. Fifty-five and a half percent of funds are donated to children and youth services, 15 percent to food and shelter, 12 percent to health and wellness, nine and a half percent to families and eight percent to the elderly.
Sarah Tanner, vice president of resource development for the United Way, said child poverty is the number one issue concerning her organization at this time because this area has the sixth highest childhood poverty rate in the country.
Tanner added that by focusing on target areas such as this with focus groups and joint collaborations with community leaders and service providers, the United Way is better able to find solutions that will create a "culture of self-sustainability and financial stability."
Katz said services funded by the United Way childcare, counseling and support services, family support and preservation, domestic violence prevention and intervention, emergency shelters and substance abuse and prevention are constantly evaluated to ensure that the "most efficient and sustainable programs are in the community."
"We're looking for programs that are effective and they need to have measurable results," he said.
Katz added each year service providers must present data to the United Way showing the number of people they have served and the "results of their funding." He said these methods ensure that the funds allocated to service providers are being properly used and have the "desired effect over the community."
According to Tanner, the United Way of Pioneer Valley Community Campaign is on its way to reaching the overall goal of raising $7.2 million by March 31. She said the preliminary numbers have been arriving steadily and that she has seen not only the increases in Agawam but also "increases across all divisions."
Two Agawam Public Sector Committee members Aldo Mancini, mechanic for Motor Vehicle Maintenance at the Agawam Department of Public Works, and Kristina Lynch, deputy director of the Agawam Senior Center, both said their efforts to collect donations were easily received this year.
Lynch attributed the increase in this year's donations to her community's direct experience with services funded by the United Way such as the Agawam Counseling Center. She was quick to point out that the reason for the employees donations were not because of an extra incentive day in 2008 but the Agawam's emphasis on community spirit and giving back.
"It's like a big family [in Agawam] and people are really open to the [United Way] cause," she said. Lynch added that she is very optimistic that the total number of donations will continue to go up from year to year, in response to the growing need in the region.
To make a donation or for more information about services provided by the United Way of Pioneer Valley call 737-2691 or visit their Web site at www.uwpv.org. For immediate assistance dial 2-1-1, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. 8 p.m. for free, confidential, referral services.