OSWEGO, NY – The United Way of Greater Oswego County kicked off its 2014-2015 campaign Wednesday at The American Foundry.
“I can’t thank you enough for all the support you’ve given the United Way and your fellow community members,” Executive Director Melanie Trexler told the large crowd.
“We have the easy job, we’re here to support you,” she said to the many representatives of the member agencies in the audience. “You have the hard job. You have to make those tough decisions. I’m here to honor, recognize and thank all of you for what every one of you does to make our community a better place.”
Two words are the essence of the United Way of Greater Oswego County – Impact and Results.
For this year’s campaign, they are focusing on three of the county’s most pressing issues, ending hunger, the success of children and youth, and the overall well being of families.
“As we kick off our campaign, we do so with a firm commitment to bettering our communities right here in Oswego County. Our focus has never been clearer, our goals never more defined,” Trexler said. “With your support and the community’s, we can and will have a positive impact on the future of Oswego County.”
His association with the United Way has offered him a first-hand look at how great the need is in this area, and the positive way in which the United Way addresses those needs, said Bill Crist, incoming president of the board.
“We are strong and capable as an organization. We look forward to remaining in that position for many years to come,” he said. “United Way is all about results. It is inspiring to see the remarkable ways in which the United Way of Greater Oswego County utilizes donors’ dollars to support programs that produce measurable results by providing services that provide comfort, support and empowerment to those in need.”
Jeanne Unger, executive director of Farnham Family Services, addressed the needs for treatment and prevention and how the United Way is assisting her agency.
Heroin is making news in Oswego County.
“Most businesses are looking for an increase in business. That’s really never been something that we’ve aspired to. But, between 2010 to the first six months of 2014, our business has increased 72 percent. Fifty-eight percent of that increase has been over the last two and a half years,” she said.
The driving factor behind that is heroin addiction.
“Addiction doesn’t discriminate. Addiction couldn’t care less. It doesn’t recognize your race, color, your creed or social-economic status. Addiction doesn’t care what neighborhood you’re from. It doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor or lawyer … it does not discriminate,” Unger said. “I’ve been doing this work for over 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
With the assistance of the United Way, they are able to provide services.
“If you want to touch the past, touch a rock. If you want to touch the present, touch a flower. And, if you want to touch the future – touch a life!” she told the audience. “That’s what everyone involved with the United Way is doing.”
Inv. Mike Curtis, of the Fulton Police Department, offered a positive view of the United Way’s impact.
He told about visiting the Oswego County Catholic Charities’ CYO as a youth. He returned year after year not realizing until many years later that each experience and every personal contact was playing a role in helping to shape a life.
Through the programs there, he learned responsibility, rules and safety, teamwork, and the benefits of hard work (including one summer of repainting the stairs at the CYO).
“Every moment and experience in your life adds a layer, like the paint on those stairs. We are obligated not just to give but to invest – your time, talent and finances if possible,” he said. “You will not just be investing in people and community; you will be investing in generations. This is just not my story. This community is full of CYO kids that need investing in. Give them a story to tell.”
What does the United Way actually do?
“Perhaps history can provide some inspiration to all of us,” explained Rob Rolfe, campaign chair.
“Edward Sheldon is generally credited with founding the basic concept of public education right here in Oswego, New York, in 1848. Mr. Sheldon, by himself, taught 100 to 120 students (from the ages of 5 – 20) five days a week. He contributed his Saturdays to personal visits to students’ homes. He noted in 1848 the utter state of despair that many of these students and their families lived in,” he said.
Sheldon was quoted as saying, “The hardest experience that ever comes to us is to see the wretchedness that cannot be alleviated.”
“That’s what the United Way does, it helps people,” Rolfe continued. “That’s why I got involved in United Way. Your contributions of time, money and advocacy have enabled others to avoid hunger through nutritious means, enabled young people to flourish and become productive members of society and promote health and well being to citizens of all ages.”
To learn more or contribute to the 2014-15 campaign, call 593-1900 or visit www.oswegounitedway.org