United Way kicks off campaign

Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin, left, talks with Ion Bank President and United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls 2017 Campaign Chairman Dave Rotatori during the United Way’s Campaign Kickoff on Oct. 4 at the Crystal Room in Naugatuck. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Give. Advocate. Volunteer.

That was the advice United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls 2017 Campaign Chairman David Rotatori had for ensuring the United Way is able to continue helping those who needed it the most.

“If you are not sure who to give to, you give to somebody who you know is taking the time to make sure every dollar is spent well. That’s why I think the United Way is the best way to give,” Rotatori said.

The United Way kicked off its annual campaign Oct. 4 at the Crystal Room. Rotatori, who was recently named president of Ion Bank, told the audience that if each person gave, advocated, and volunteered with the United Way five times throughout the campaign, the nonprofit organization would hit its campaign goals of raising $415,000 and reaching 500 additional people.

Through the annual campaign, the United Way helps to fund about a dozen partner agencies and youth athletic leagues. This year’s campaign goal of $415,000 is $5,000 higher than last year.

United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls Executive Director Lisa Shappy said the need for services is increasing. She said there are waiting lists for counseling services, and organizations that provide basic services, such as utility and rental assistance, are inundated with people in need of help.

“I don’t foresee it changing. Ideally I would love to say, ‘Yeah, we don’t need to be in existence,’ but it’s not getting better. It is staying the same. There are more people in our community that need help than if you compare it to 10 years ago,” Shappy said.

Regional Deacon for Naugatuck Valley for the Episcopal Church Thomas Mariconda, who is a member of the Naugatuck Social Services Network, said many organizations that provide services are facing a difficult time these days.

“We are all living in very challenging times. Many agencies are facing budget cuts from federal, state and local governments. Many agencies are being asked to do more with less while experiencing the amount of folks in need is rising and not decreasing. At this time, all of us need to find ways we can work together to meet our common goals of serving anyone who has a need,” said Mariconda, who was the guest speaker at the campaign kickoff.

The Naugatuck Social Services Network and United Way work hand in hand, and Mariconda said it is that collaboration that makes helping people possible.

“I keep using that word, collaborate, because that has to be the model going forward. With limited resources, with limited funding, and the needs increasing we must learn to break down barriers and learn to collaborate to do the mission God has set out for us to do, which is to serve people in need,” Mariconda said.

Through fundraisers and some corporate and individual pledges already in hand, the United Way has already raised about $220,000, or 53 percent, of its goal.

“We are definitely well on our way, but we need to keep the pace to reach the goal. We are only halfway there,” Rotatori said.