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United Way begins Jefferson County campaign

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The United Way of Northern New York’s Jefferson County campaign is going to “kick some butt” this year.

That is the hope of United Way staff, and businesses and organizations that will run individual campaigns to help provide funding for the area’s nonprofit agencies.

“You all have enthusiasm or you wouldn’t have (decided) to do a campaign in your work place,” said Jane V. Schmitt, United Way chairwoman. “Go out there, kick some butt, raise some money and have some fun.”

Participating businesses and organizations and some United Way partner nonprofit agencies attended the campaign kickoff breakfast Monday at the Ramada Inn, Route 3. Those that host a campaign received all campaign materials and plenty of motivation.

“Have us in the door; call me up,” said Tobi Darrah, United Way campaign director. “We’ll bring in a partner agency that sells it.”

A new partner agency this year is the Watertown Urban Mission. It’s executive director, Erika F. Flint, told about 75 people at Monday’s breakfast that without the new partnership with the United Way, the agency would not have been able to help as many working families. The Urban Mission recently received $20,000 from the United Way to help support the mission’s Critical Needs Program.

“On behalf of the lives you’ve touched, thank you,” Ms. Flint said. “You’re enabling us to not only help with what we currently do, but to expand.”

That grant will help those who want to find employment and those who are working but need assistance with house support services, gas vouchers, cost of background checks for furthering employment, and car maintenance and parts, among other reasons.

United Way Chief Executive Officer Robert D. Gorman said the United Way also will make sure nonprofits that ask for money are being held accountable, in that their boards of directors also contribute to the United Way. The agency will need their help and the help of many others in the community in order to reach its goal of increasing the number of campaign participants.

“The United Way is covering three counties,” he said. “These counties are the size of Connecticut. I have a staff of four people. That’s a lot of doors we’ve got to knock on.”

Mr. Gorman said of the 245,000 residents of Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, only 4,700 are United Way contributors. It would take double that number of participants to fully fund all requests from partner nonprofit agencies.

To help make that happen, the United Way is going by the slogan “52 for you.” That piggy-backs off of the past, successful “It Takes a Dollar” campaign, in which people pledge to have one dollar each week deducted from their paycheck.

Jefferson County Campaign Chairman David J. Zembiec said a small contribution each week is one way that adds up to big dollars. Watertown Daily Times Customer Service Manager Chenoa L. Woodruff gave a presentation on how the local newspaper has run a successful campaign the past few years. Hosting pizza luncheons, raffles and soda float socials were some ways the Times got people who typically don’t contribute to the United Way to give a little.

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