Annual campaign begins as needs grow

United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls Executive Director Lisa Shappy, right, talks with Trooper First Class Kelly Grant, the public information officer for the Connecticut State Police, during the United Way’s 2016 Campaign Kickoff Sept. 15 at The Crystal Room in Naugatuck. Grant was the guest speaker for the event. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls Executive Director Lisa Shappy, right, talks with Trooper First Class Kelly Grant, the public information officer for the Connecticut State Police, during the United Way’s 2016 Campaign Kickoff Sept. 15 at The Crystal Room in Naugatuck. Grant was the guest speaker for the event. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

NAUGATUCK — For most, Alice could be a sister, a mother or a cousin. For the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls, ALICE has a much different meaning.

The acronym stands for Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed. It represents a specific group of people: those who are working and make too much money to qualify for government assistance programs, but not enough to pay for basic needs.

The number of people in Naugatuck and Beacon Falls considered ALICE has grown over the past year to 47 percent and 31 percent, respectively, according to the United Way.

“What these stats really portray is nearly half of our population can barely make ends meet and they’re one minor bump away from what could be a major financial hardship. That’s really why we’re here tonight. … We’re here to continue to help,” Patrick Kelley, a commercial lending manager at Liberty Bank and chair of the United Way’s annual campaign, told the roughly 70 people gathered Sept. 15 at The Crystal Room to kick off the campaign.

Kelley announced this year’s campaign goal is to raise $410,000.

Through the annual campaign, the United Way helps to fund 14 partner agencies that work to meet the needs of the community and one youth athletic league.

“As you all know we say year after year how the needs in our community are growing faster than we can raise funds,” United Way Board of Directors President Kathy McPadden said. “But we know that together we will be able to make our 2016-2017 campaign into a success.”

The $410,000 goal is $10,000 less than last year’s campaign goal, which was reduced as well from the previous year.

United Way Executive Director Lisa Shappy said the goal was lowered to accommodate the transition of a couple businesses, whose employees have typically given to the campaign, either moving or downsizing.

“Hopefully, we’ll surpass that,” Shappy said of the goal. “We have a great team in place. I’m really excited. We’ve brought on some new people, and I know this community will come through.”

Coming through for the community is an attribute the United Way is known for, said Trooper First Class Kelly Grant, the public information officer for the Connecticut State Police.

Grant, a Naugatuck native and the evening’s guest speaker, said the United Way listens to the needs of the community, and when those needs change the organization transforms to meet them. She added the work of the United Way allows health and service agencies to do their job more efficiently and effectively.

“The United Way really lives up to its motto of ‘Live United.’ It’s really a motto for all of us to follow,” Grant said.

While last week was the official campaign kickoff, the United Way is well on its way to meeting its goal.

With $27,960 raised at special events so far and $121,000 from Ion Bank employee pledges and a corporate gift, the campaign stands at $148,960, or nearly 36 percent of its goal, Kelley announced.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” Kelley said. “We ask that you all help to keep the momentum going. Great things happen when we work together and live united.”