United Way Stresses Unity For 2013-14 Campaign

OSWEGO, NY – The United Way of Greater Oswego County began its annual campaign on Wednesday.

Melanie Trexler, executive director, welcomed the extra large crowd to the kickoff breakfast meeting at The American Foundry in Oswego.

Unity is an important factor in life, she said.

“Without ‘UNITY,’ there can be no commUNITY,’ One year ago on this very stage, we coined the phrase – This is our Community and it is Personal. That phrase continues to ring true now,” she said. “It is our community and it is the unity that we share with our member agencies, our collaborating partners, businesses both large and small and most importantly – you and community members like you whose spirit, commitment and dedication make it possible for us to continue our mission and improve the quality of life in Oswego County!”

Working together, as a unified team, there is virtually nothing they can’t accomplish, she added.

In the last six months, according to Trexler, their efforts have:

  • Provided close to 122,000 meals to seniors and others
  • Provided free immunizations to children who may not have received them otherwise
  • Helped more than 300 families get the much needed health care that they deserve

“This is just a small sample of what we do,” she said. “Stand tall and be proud. I know I am of you.”

“During the campaign, let us remember, it is our community and it is personal,” said board President Kathy Fenlon. “None of that would be possible without community members like you. So thank you for that. I have seen first-hand the tremendous impact United Way has on the many, many service programs that it sponsors.”

It seems like just a month ago they were there celebrating the 2012-13 campaign results, she added.

“From youth to seniors, United Way programs touch the lives of countless members of our community,” she said. “If you look around at your neighborhood, your friends, you will see someone who has benefited from the services of the United Way.”

Rob Rolfe, campaign chair, “got the band (campaign cabinet) back together,” and, dressed in their finest Blues Brothers attire are on a mission. That mission’s goal is to raise $800,000.

The United Way helps to support 20 agencies and 29 programs that serve thousands of individuals.

“By joining us today, you are demonstrating your conviction to the United Way and our mission,” Fenlon said. “You are aware that it truly is our community and it is personal. You understand that through your support of the United Way that each of us can make a difference.”

Danielle Hayden, of the American Red Cross, and Meg Henderson, of OCO’s Literacy Volunteers of Oswego County, shared some of their success stories – made possible through the assistance of the United Way.

All of the programs are fully funded, even though “we barely missed our goals over the past three years,” Rolfe noted.

In some counties, they are “massively” cutting programs, he pointed out.

The United Way of Greater Oswego County is doing well, “yet we haven’t made our goal,” he continued.

The Shineman Foundation has granted $20,000 to match employee contributions for workers at Huhtamaki and Oswego County Opportunities.

Eight years ago this August, a fall from a 13-foot balcony left Greg Callen with paralysis of the lower half of his body. He shared his story with the crowd at the campaign kickoff.

“I have had to surround myself with individuals who not only believe in me but they’re going to guide me and make sure that through all of the challenges that I face that I don’t hit bottoms. And, those bottoms are very easy, not only for me but for every one of us, every day because of all the challenges that society brings on for us,” he said.

He cited his family for “being the glue that’s guided him” through the past eight years, he said.

“The extension of that glue is our community. ARISE, the United Way and other agencies locally enabled me to live my life and improve my quality of life after my injury,” he said.

They were instrumental in creating a ramp to allow his access to his grandmother’s home, he explained.

“Besides that physical barrier, there was so much that was intrinsicly lost when I didn’t have that opportunity to get to my grandmother’s home any more,” he said.

Thanks to the efforts of the United Way, he is able to visit his grandmother again.

“That is really the impact that a small community like Oswego can have on an individual and all other individuals, friends, family members and confidants. That is the impact that United Way and ARISE has had to help me go forward in my life,” he said.

He established Move Along, a non-profit organization to promote wheelchair athletics and competitive programs for persons with disabilities and their families; joined resources with Syracuse Fliers Wheelchair Sports and is now operating as Move Along, Inc.

“We are a small, close-knit community that is going to thrive on one another. I will be here to help with that, and if any of you ever need my help, please feel free to reach out,” he said.

To find out more about the United Way or to make a donation toward the 2013-14 campaign, call 593-1900 or visit www.oswegounitedway.org