by: John Stratton
They were all there at 7:30 a.m. at the Mystic Marriott—civic leaders, nonprofit organizers, business scions…and, virtually, the 16,000 others who chipped in to help neighbors in need in Southeastern Connecticut for this coming year.
The total of $5,720,590 for the recent United Way campaign was an $80,000-smidgen short of its goal, but the four-month campaign – “from Speedbowl to Spa” in the words of co-chairman Pat Gaffey, shows that “if you plant a seed, something will grow—and now we are here for the harvest.” The campaign kicked off at the Waterford Speedbowl last September and concluded at the Marriott March 28 with a “Thank You Celebration” honoring both contributors and workers.
The celebration itself was donated by Charter Oak Federal Credit Union so that “no donor dollars would be diverted from local agencies,” said Brian Orenstein, chief executive officer of the credit union. “When we have a success like this, we want to share it with them,” he emphasized.
The campaign efforts this year, said Gaffey, whose co-chair was Harry Rodriguez of AFT Local 5123 at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital, were directed at “increasing partnerships and participation. Our labor has paid off with 250 new participant organizations supporting 55 programs that help everyone in New London County.”
He also cited the Way’s program of enlisting “loaned employees” from area businesses who “increase our capability and keep administrative costs low.”
Rodney Butler, Chairman of the Mashantucket-Pequot Tribe, led the awards presentations to standout businesses and individuals. For example, Electric Boat and its Employees’ Community Service Association raised almost $1.9 million, a 5.5 percent increase over last year. The performance garnered the Chairman’s Award of Excellence.
“This organization is growing in resources, volunteerism, and advocacy,” concluded Virginia L. Mason, President and CEO of the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut. “We’ll move ahead with effort, creativity, and collective consciousness.”