Annual United Way campaign ready to launch

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As the United Way of Naugatuck & Beacon Falls prepares to kickoff its annual campaign, it finds itself in a bit of a Catch-22.

“As the economy grows worse people have more need but people have less to give,” said David Rotatori, 2011 United Way campaign chairman.

The United Way will kickoff its campaign Sept. 29 with a dinner event at the Crystal Room in Naugatuck. The annual campaign is the organization’s largest fundraiser, and the United Way is aiming at matching last year’s goal of raising $415,000.

Given the state of the economy, Rotatori knows it could be an uphill struggle matching last year’s goal. “But,” he said, “there is more need and we’re trying to hold our ground.”

The campaign runs until Thanksgiving and relies heavily on the contributions from employees of local businesses and corporations. With the loss of large companies like Peter Paul over recent years the pool of employees to contribute has grown slimmer.

“We’ve lost a lot of companies,” United Way Executive Director Lisa Shappy said.

Shappy pointed to the growth of Naugatuck Savings Bank and Naugatuck Valley Savings and Loan as crucial to helping to maintain the campaign levels as other companies have downsized or left.

Corporate donations from employees come directly out of payroll, explained Rotatori, making it an effective way to give and collect donations. Local residents who work out of town can also give through their business by requesting the funds go to the United Way of Naugatuck & Beacon Falls. Individual donations are also welcome.

All of the money raised from the campaign goes to about 20 different local agencies that provide services to Naugatuck and Beacon Falls residents guaranteeing that the money given stays local.

Rotatori said the United Way evaluates the agencies it allocates money to and meets with the agency leaders to ensure the money is being stretched to the max.

While the campaign focuses on raising money, the broader goal is to see the help given through the funds raised comes full circle. Shappy and Rotatori said the ultimate goal is to see people in a position of need receive a helping hand from the agencies working with the United Way, and then turn around and give back to their community.

“That’s the idea. Help people help themselves and then hopefully in time they can help others,” Rotatori said.

The campaign kickoff event is Sept. 29. It begins at 5:15 p.m. with dinner and the evening’s program starting at 6 p.m. Tickets are now on sale. For more information or to buy tickets, call the United Way of Naugatuck & Beacon Falls at (203) 729-1564. RSVP by Sept. 22.