SOUTHINGTON - United Way of Southington kicked off its Annual Campaign Thursday at Manor Inn, with leaders speaking of how supporting them helps people who are employed and struggling to meet basic survival needs.
The event saw every table in the room packed with donors and representatives from local agencies that the Southington United Way supports. United Way of Southington has contributed more than $1.5 million since 2008 to support ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) residents. Twenty-nine percent of town residents fall into this category.
Following breakfast and the Pledge of Allegiance, Art Secondo, vice president of United Way of Southington, welcomed those who attended the campaign kickoff and all those who support the efforts of the group. He thanked the numerous organizations that supported their booklet, which was a first for this year.
“We used to have a feeling that it was a secret that the United Way existed in Southington,” he said. “Now we know that it isn’t a secret anymore.”
Jack Eisenmann, executive director of United Way of Southington, had current and past board members stand and be recognized, along with representatives from the agencies they support. He thanked United Way’s supporters and community partners and then spoke of United Way of Southington’s mission.
“We support ALICE residents, who are struggling to meet their basic survival needs,” he said. “I hope that you will help us make a difference in this community by supporting United Way.”
Eisenmann introduced Mary Kate Kuptis, United Way’s events campaign chair. He explained that she supports blood drives in August and February, which directly help a Southington High School student with Cooley’s anemia.
Eisenmann also introduced Gary Havican, senior vice president of Hartford HealthCare.
Havican said United Way is an important part of his life and that he raised $160,000 for United Way in his last hospital job. Havican pointed out that by supporting United Way, people were supporting Community Mental Health Affiliates’ HOPE (Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education) program. The program allows addicts to, instead of going to jail, go to the emergency department and begin a treatment program. As part of the program, they are connected with recovery coaches who are former addicts themselves.
“We hit 51 program participants a couple months ago, but the crisis is much bigger than that,” said Havican. “We will continue to work with United Way as we try to get this program off the ground.”
Havican also praised United Way for their support of programs that assist seniors, pointing out that the population is aging and people are living longer. Havican encouraged people to “lead by example” and by supporting United Way, help support those agencies that “make people’s lives go a little bit smoother.”
Janalynne Salerno Gius, daughter of John Salerno, who co-owns Tops Market with Betsy Tooker, then spoke. She said March had been a rough year for her family between the market burning down and her being diagnosed with stage one breast cancer. She said that her family had received $18,000 in donations to rebuild the market, which they plan to eventually give back to the community. The foundations for the new building are in place, steel beams are going up next week, and the family is aiming to re-open Tops in February.
Salerno Gius spoke to how her own medical bills have piled up as a result of her cancer treatment. She said it isn’t hard to imagine how people in similar situations could find themselves at risk of food insecurity or bankruptcy. She said supporting United Way supports agencies that can provide people facing such situations with assistance.
Kathryn Reinhard, of the Joe & Kay Calvanese Foundation, the recipient of the United Way 2019 Community Service Award, then encouraged people to reach out to those who don’t know about United Way and get them “on-board.”
Rob Flood, president of United Way of Southington, closed out the Campaign Kickoff by talking about another local program the group supports, with the assistance of funds from the Main Street Community Foundation: rides for seniors 55 or older through Senior Transportation Services. People can sign up to become volunteer drivers to take local seniors to medical appointments, pharmacy visits, care facilities, visits with loved ones, banks, or hairdressers/barbers. He said that two years ago, 450 rides were provided. This year, so far, 2,700 rides have been provided.
“There is a lot of demand but there are not enough drivers,” said Flood.
There are currently 34 volunteer drivers, but Senior Transportation Services is looking to get at least 70.
For more information about Senior Transportation Services, you can call 860-224-7117.
For more information about United Way of Southington, call 860-628-4565 or visit unitedwayofsouthington.org.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or email@example.com.
Agencies funded by United Way of Southington:
. Bread for Life – providing meals for seniors, shut-ins and the homeless
. Child Guidance Clinic – providing counseling to children to help them with any struggles
. Literacy Volunteers – teaches adult residents how to read and do math
. Margaret Griffin Child Development Center – provides daycare to struggling working parents
. Prudence Crandall Center – provides a safe shelter for women and children
. Senior Transportation Services, Inc. – provides local riders with volunteer drivers
. Salvation Army and Southington Community Services – provides a full range of income support services to those in crisis in the community.
. YMCA – programs targeted to benefit youths
. YWCA Sexual Assault Crisis Service – provides counseling and services for women that have been assaulted