Article and Photo by Michael DePietro
Interim Tribune Editor
Last Friday, the United Way of Greater Niagara announced the start of its 2020 fundraising campaign at the Four Points Sheridan Hotel in Niagara Falls. The organization says this year’s campaign, which will run through Nov. 30, is more critical than ever as community groups continue to struggle with the effects of COVID-19. Funds raised throughout will continue to support 29 agencies focused on a spectrum of human services throughout the Niagara Region.
The organization announced that the co-chairs for this year’s campaign are Denise Abbott from DeGraff Medical Park and Nicolas Maniccia from KeyBank.
Maniccia, who was unable to attend the event, said in a statement, “With the 2020 campaign, it’s our hope to continue raising funds that will directly impact the residents of Niagara County who benefit from a wide range of programs and services throughout Niagara Falls, Lockport, Tonawanda and North Tonawanda. It’s critical that United Way can continue empowering our region and helping Niagara County residents navigate this uncertain time.”
Abbott, this year’s labor co-chair, discussed how, as a nurse, she saw firsthand how UWGN was able to help provide vital services to essential workers during the pandemic.
“I’m a nurse. I had to go to work. I didn’t have an option to stay home, and many of my coworkers were in that same boat,” she said. “Yet, there wasn’t anything available to them to watch their children. The United Way stepped up immediately and put together a program to offer child care at either no cost or a very, very low cost to a lot of our members and it was incredibly needed and it was utilized and it still is utilized to this day. So, I thank them very much for what they’ve done for all of our members.
“I’ve taken calls from so many of our members that have been negatively affected, so I know what (UWGN has) done. ... The call has always been answered and there’s never been anybody turned away. That’s what makes the United Way so incredible is that they open their arms and everybody is taking care of. So, I want to continue helping them to help this community, the Greater Niagara Region, and answer the needs that have come up. … It’s more important now than ever, so I want that message to get out there that the United Way is needed, that they’re valued, and that I will shout from the rooftops if I have to.”
Niagara Falls School Superintendent and member of UWGN’s board of directors Mark Laurie discussed how the organization helped local school districts provide child care services for essential workers and first responders during the pandemic.
“Those people have children and they needed places for those children to go. And it was a big discussion among superintendents about where are we going to provide day care; where are we going to provide support; where are we going to provide meaningful safe activities? ... Two member United Way agencies really stepped up,” Laurie said. “So, where does your money go? It went into providing the day care support for first responders.”
One of those organizations was Youth Mentoring Services of Niagara County Inc., whose executive director, Sue Capell, went on to share some of the words of gratitude her organization received from some of the workers who received support.
“Thanks to the United Way, we were able to immediately shift to providing child care services for essential workers. The relief we were able to provide parents during this time of uncertainty allowed so many of our region’s essential workers to receive child care support when they needed it the most,” Capell said. “The best way to illustrate our success is in the words of parents whose children attend our program. … ‘Thank you, so much for this lifesaving program. I was able to continue working while knowing my child was engaged in a safe, fun and secure program.’
“And another parent, ‘Thank you for offering these programs at such a crazy time. It’s been such a relief for me and my husband. As working parents, I cannot convey enough gratitude to all that you have done for our family.’
“Because of funds from United Way, organizations like Youth Mentoring Services are able to provide services year-round and during times of need.”
UWGN President Connie Brown said those looking for ways to get involved with the campaign can visit www.uwgn.org to donate directly, or visit https://www.uwgn.org/Campaign for information on how to sponsor a workplace campaign.
The mission of United Way of Greater Niagara is to invest in programs that focus on education, health and income that deliver measurable results to improve the Greater Niagara Region today and strengthen it for tomorrow.
To learn more about United Way of Greater Niagara, visit www.uwgn.org.