United Way surpasses annual campaign goal

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United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls campaign Co-Chairman Dave Mulhall speaks during the United Way’s annual campaign kickoff alongside Co-Chairwoman Rebecca Zandvliet on Sept. 29 at the Crystal Room in Naugatuck. Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

NAUGATUCK — United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls surpassed its annual campaign goal last year and already has begun raising funds for this year.

The nonprofit surpassed its $415,000 goal for 2021-2022 by about $45,000 due to an increase in individual giving, last year’s golf tournament raising $15,000 and more people attending events with the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic, United Way Executive Director Lisa Shappy said.

“United Way believes in a mission … focused on three areas – education, providing a firm foundation at an early age and then continue to develop our children into successful adults who can contribute to their communities,” Shappy said. “So basically giving people the education they need to be productive citizens.”

The organization officially kicked off its annual campaign Sept. 29 at the Crystal Room with a packed room of supportive groups and businesses. The fundraising target for 2022-2023 is $450,000. United Way’s New York Mets bus trip earlier this year raised nearly $3,000 and its annual golf tournament in August raised more than $12,000, campaign Co-Chairwoman Rebecca Zandvliet said.

The United Way recognized support from the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities, Connecticut Association for Human Services, Connecticut Partnership for Children, Foodshare Connecticut, Hidden Acres Therapeutic Riding Center, 211 Infoline, Kelly’s Kids, Literacy Volunteers of Greater Waterbury, Naugatuck Babe Ruth League, Naugatuck & Beacon Falls Scouting Fund, Naugatuck Campership Fund, Naugatuck YMCA, Naugatuck Youth Services, Salvation Army, Union City Little League and Wellmore Behavioral Health.

“Thank you all for your time,” Zandvliet said, “and for always promoting the United Way and for recognizing the importance of volunteering in our community.”

Campaign Co-Chairman Dave Mulhall told guests when he looks around the room, he sees familiar faces who have donated much of their time, talent and treasure.

About 41% of the families in Naugatuck and 25% of those in Beacon Falls are living at or below the poverty level.

Shappy noted United Way is more than a short-term charity, offering lasting solutions that build opportunities for all. Some of the newer community needs involve behavioral and mental health.

“I wish I can tell you as a United Way person that the needs of our community have diminished, however, they have not,” Shappy said. “They have changed. The needs for mental health are on the rise. Adolescent mental health is skyrocketing, so those are the statistics we’re seeing and I think it’s because of COVID. These kids were isolated and had to stay home. They were on these crazy schedules.”

The United Way’s next event is “Designer Handbag Bingo” set for Oct. 13 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Elks Lodge, 758 Rubber Ave. Tickets are $30 per person for 10 games each. Attendees will have 10 opportunities to win a designer handbag.