United Way kicks off campaign in traditional fashion

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By Elio Gugliotti, Editor

Allan Monteiro, president of the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls board of directors, speaks during the United Way’s annual campaign kickoff Sept. 23 at the Crystal Room in Naugatuck. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

NAUGATUCK — The United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls hit its annual campaign goal last year — thanks to some non-traditional ways.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit couldn’t host its typical fundraising events last year. Federal and state grants available due to the pandemic and additional corporate gifts helped make up the difference.

The campaign goal remains the same this year, to raise $415,000, but United Way Executive Director Lisa Shappy doesn’t expect the same non-traditional methods to be available again.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“I’m really anxious to get started with fundraisers again,” said Donna Andrew, who is cochairing the campaign for a second year with John McCormack.

The United Way officially kicked off its annual campaign Sept. 23 at the Crystal Room, but the fundraising was already off and running. The United Way’s annual golf tournament in August raised more than $15,500, Shappy said.

“We’re hoping that is going to set the pace,” she said.

Andrew and McCormack urged people who want to support the campaign to attend a fundraiser, where they can not only help the community but also learn about the United Way. Information on upcoming fundraisers is available online at unitedwaynaugatuck.org.

The money raised through the United Way’s campaign helps to support programs, which focus on basic needs, education and financial stability, run by partner agencies that support the community.

“We’re helping everyone locally,” McCormack said. “What we’re doing is bringing money right back into the Naugatuck community.”

Allan Monteiro, president of the United Way board of directors, said the board is going into the annual campaign very optimistic and with a pair of energetic co-chairmen to lead the way.

“I am very confident in our team,” he said. “I think we have an excellent team.”

The campaign kickoff also served as a venue for an overdue honor.

Coleen Grommisch, left, accepts the Mary Connolly Community Caring Award from United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls Executive Director Lisa Shappy during the organization’s annual campaign kickoff Sept. 23 at the Crystal Room in Naugatuck. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

The United Way recognized Coleen Grommisch with the Mary Connolly Community Caring Award. The award is given to an individual or individuals who demonstrate outstanding support to the United Way and the community.

The award is typically presented during the United Way’s annual meeting, but that hasn’t been held in person in two years.

Grommisch, who is a human resources coordinator for Naugatuck Public Schools, has an extensive resume of service to the United Way and the community. She started with the United Way as a member of the allocations committee, which determines funding for programs.

Grommisch described meeting with agencies to discuss programs — like a safe house Waterbury Youth Services runs for children who were removed from their homes due to abuse — eye-opening and emotional at times.

“Allocation was a stepping stone that made me realize the need in the community for volunteers,” Grommisch said.

Aside from volunteering with the United Way, Grommisch is also president of the Naugatuck Beacon Falls Campership Committee. Over the years, she also volunteered as a team manager for travel soccer teams and with the Maple Hill Elementary School parent teacher organization.

Grommisch said the Crystal Room last Thursday night was filled with people who deserve the award. She added there’s so many people and organizations that contribute to the community who don’t get recognized.

“We all share a common goal: to make our community a better place to live and learn, to take care of our neighbors, our colleagues, our families, and to provide them with any services they need to live a safe, happy life,” she said.