United Way kicks off 50th year

United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls Executive Director Lisa Shappy shares a laugh with guests during the United Way’s Campaign Kickoff Dinner at the Crystal Room in Naugatuck last Thursday. The dinner began the organization’s drive to raise $425,000 this year. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — The United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls is turning 50 this year.

The United Way, which serves 14 organizations and four youth sports leagues around the area, celebrated the milestone during its yearly Campaign Kickoff Dinner last Thursday at the Crystal Room in Naugatuck.

The United Way’s goal for this year’s campaign is $425,000, which is up $10,000 from last year. The United Way exceeded its goal last year, raising approximately $420,000.

“The goal is set higher because the need is greater,” Executive Director Lisa Shappy said.

While the dinner focused on the campaign kickoff, Naugatuck Mayor Robert Mezzo took the time to recognize all the volunteers that give more than money to the United Way.

“For any great charitable organization, you need money. All of us are going to be asked to give. But what I think separates this United Way is the tremendous effort of volunteerism and spirit of community for all the people who are involved,” Mezzo said. “You give more than just your money. You give your time and your heart.”

Laurie Yelding, vice president of the board of directors and this year’s chairwoman of the campaign, explained that, although the official kickoff was last Thursday, the United Way has been receiving money from companies throughout the year. Thanks to these donations, as well as donations from individuals and miscellaneous special events, the United Way has already reached 50 percent of its goal.

Vice President of the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls Board of Directors and campaign Chairwoman Laurie Yelding talks to Gary Steck, left, and Dr. Robert Plant during the United Way’s Campaign Kickoff Dinner at the Crystal Room in Naugatuck last Thursday. The dinner began the organization’s drive to raise $425,000 this year. –LUKE MARSHALL

“The financial assistance provided to the Beacon Falls and Naugatuck residents through the United Way can only occur if we have a successful campaign, and, let me tell you, we are off to a great start,” Yelding said.

Naugatuck Savings Bank gave $124,000 through employee and corporate donations, Multi Metal Manufacturing gave $1,350 through employee donations, United Aviations gave $1,584 through employee and corporate donations, the Naugatuck public schools system raised a total of $12,300, and the Naugatuck YMCA raised $3,051. This means that, from these sources alone, the United Way had raised $142,285 before the kickoff dinner.

Yelding explained that one of the ways the United Way would raise money towards its goal was by hosting a variety of fundraising events throughout the year.

The charity has already hosted a gold tournament in the beginning of September and is looking to host two fundraising events this month. The first is a bus trip to Salem on Oct. 13 and the second is the Annual Halloween Party on Oct. 26.

The United Way will also be hosting the Annual Festival of the Trees again this year. The trees will be decorated by companies or individuals, and then be displayed for a full week at Naugatuck Savings Bank on Church Street in December. During that time, people will have a chance to bid on and win any of the trees.

While Yelding is nervous about reaching this year’s goal, she has faith in her community. Yelding said in the seven years she has been with United Way the organization has never failed to meet a goal it has set for itself.

“We have so many great companies and volunteers that help us out,” Yelding said.