Letter: United Way continues legacy of giving

To the editor,

Watching the news programs this morning, one would think the most important item on people’s minds is what to do with the substitute football referees. While it was definitely a problem for Green Bay, was it the number one concern on the minds of area residents this morning as they began their day?

Fifty years ago in Naugatuck, a group of men and women knew what was on the minds of our families. Then, as today, many in our community struggle to make ends meet. Then, as today, a group of involved citizens came together to make a difference and help their neighbors.

This Thursday night, at the Crystal Room, the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls will kick off its 50th year. In celebration, our United Way will be focusing on thanking the many people who have been a part of our past. They were the volunteer leaders who knew what needed to be done and made it happen. They were the people who continue to inspire today’s group of volunteers.

In 1986, Robert Van Allen, one of the founders of the original “United Givers” organization, wrote this history: “Twenty men and women met Nov. 7, 1962 to consider the formation of a united giving organization that would serve to help support the human service agencies in the Naugatuck and Beacon Falls area. The multiplicity of fund drives had consumed the energy and patience of those assembled. A clever article in Time magazine entitled: ‘Put All Your Begs In One Asket’ seemed to epitomize the thinking.”  The concept was only the beginning.  It took considerable organizing to make it happen.  Bob Van Allen and John Evans spent many evening hours around a kitchen table drawing up a constitution, by-laws and agency agreements. When tired minds slowed down they would charge another pot of coffee and call in Anna Lee Van Allen and Lonnie Evans to help. Popular support for united giving grew rapidly as the idea was thoroughly presented in open forum and through the media.  Within six months “United Givers” had been officially organized. Strong support was evidenced by the illustrious incorporators who gave their stamp of approval: Philip Brown, Donald Brubaker, Charles Brust, John Darby, Raymond Foley, Rudolph Hennick, Nelson Judy, Rev. Thomas McCarthy, Robert Newhall, John Parsons, Philip Rice, Robert Sutherland, John Tatigian and Rev. Richard Williams.”

This quote from a Naugatuck News article printed on May 7, 1984 stands true today,  “Because it depends so heavily on voluntary support, the United Way, according to the Van Allen’s is ‘people helping people,’ particularly Naugatuck’s solid group of citizens who ‘see their commitment to help and give because they feel part of the town’s success.’”  While the strength of industries which supported Naugatuck and Beacon Falls has diminished, our community spirit has not.

Today’s United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls continues to be led by a group of hard-working and caring volunteers. Marcelo Martins, a man known in this community for rolling up his sleeves volunteering for not only the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls, but also the YMCA, Rotary and other community service groups, leads as this year’s president. Laurie Yelding, also active with various community groups, will serve as vice president and campaign chairwoman.  In addition to a group of volunteers who serve on the Board of Directors and the Budget and Allocations Committee, which is responsible for making decisions on how donor’s contributions are most needed, there are many, many other Naugatuck and Beacon Falls residents and business owners who volunteer at the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls’ fun events. If you would like to join this group of neighbors helping neighbors, please contact Lisa Shappy at 203-729-1564 or check out our website www.unitedwaynaugatuck.org or our Facebook page www.facebook.com/NaugyBFUnitedWay.

Thank you to all who have volunteered their time for our community through the United Givers and the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls in the past, in the present and to those who are considering joining us in the near future.

Dorothy Hoff

Board member

United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls