by John Stratton
There were no thundering engines or burning rubber, but a “race” is on to help agencies and citizens in Southeastern Connecticut.
The Waterford Speedbowl hosted some 300 representatives of service agencies and donating companies and groups September 5 as the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut started its 2012 fall fundraising campaign.
The annual drive heads for a checkered flag in several weeks that will help support 76 programs and initiatives that will aid many thousands of our friends and neighbors in the region. For them, United Way support is a badge of honor, a trophy shown proudly in their service centers and on their stationery.
The sponsors of the race-themed kickoff event are Zachry Nuclear Engineering and Applied Physical Sciences Corporation, who donated the evening so that individual contributions could go directly to United Way agencies. Zachry also sponsors NASCAR top-ranker David Starr of Houston, who offered an introduction to the importance of United Way in the community and in corporate cultures.
He’s the driver of No. 81 Zachry Toyota Tundra truck of Arrington Racing, which is a formidable force on the racing circuits of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Zachry’s senior vice-president Ken Ewell and APS president Chick Corrado welcomed the agencies and organizations to the early-evening event. The No. 81 race truck and its impressive trailer-shop-office were open for kickoff winners to tour, and Starr signed autographs for fans. The 3/8-mile oval Speedbowl track dates back to 1951 origins and is owned by Terry Eames, an enthusiastic supporter of the United Way event.
The 2012 Campaign Co-Chairs are Pat Gaffey of Pfizer Inc. in Groton and Harry Rodriguez of AFT Local 5123 at Lawrence+Memorial Hospital. The two chairmen guide the campaign volunteers and staff, assisted by a seven-person campaign cabinet and six specialists loaned from area businesses and unions.
The cabinet comprises Wayne Burgess, Mary Johnson, Tom Kasprzak, Mike Kerst, Pam Kinder, Brian Orenstein, and Melodie Peters; the loaned employees are Martha Fletcher, Kevin Fusconi, Rosemary Taft, Sherri Biro, and Mike Kerst.
Four companies hopped into “drivers’ seats” as “pacesetters” to get the campaign rolling. They were represented by Rick Calvert, of the Child and Family Agency; Ray Hackett, of the Norwich Bulletin; Pam Kinder, from United Community and Family Services; and Brian Orenstein, of Charter Oak Federal Credit Union. These groups distinguished themselves with high employee participation and increased donations in pre-campaign programs.
Representative United Way agencies exhibited information underscoring the fact that every town in New London County is served by a United Way partner program or food distribution site.
Next stop? Victory Lane!