MERIDEN — Speaking before a gathering that included volunteers, leaders of non-profits, business executives and elected officials Thursday night, Maria Campos Harlow announced a new goal as the United Way of Meriden & Wallingford kicked off its 2020 campaign.
Harlow, the organization’s executive director, challenged those who attended the kickoff at the Augusta Curtis Cultural Center to raise $780,000 — $40,000 more than last year’s campaign.
“By working together we raise awareness of those needs, but we also raise awareness of the generosity of the residents of Meriden and Wallingford,” Harlow said.
That generosity would impact thousands of area residents, “whose lives will be made richer… and whose every day will be made brighter. We’re not just raising money. We’re raising hopes and lives,” she said.
Attendees mingled during the event, which was also hosted by the Midstate Chamber of Commerce.
Harlow said although her agency serves two different communities, the needs are basically the same. They include access to health care, education and basic needs.
“We have a number of partners who help with those needs,” Harlow said.
For example, New Britain-based Senior Transportation Services, which provides healthcare transportation to area residents over 55, explained Nancy Morrissey, the organization’s executive director.
Morrissey said funding Senior Transportation Services receives through the United Way is “crucial to our organization.” The service is free for low-income residents.
“All of our drivers are volunteers using their own vehicles,” Morrissey said..
Other agencies that receive United Way funds include the Spanish Community of Wallingford, Literacy Volunteers of Greater New Haven, the Child Guidance Clinic for Central Connecticut, the Women & Families Center and more.
Women & Families Center Chief Executive Officer Wayne Valaitis said the United Way funding enables the center to access federal and state grants, which often require matching local dollars.
“If we receive $10,000 to this program, we’re able to access $100,000 in state and federal funds. So their money really helps us leverage a lot more money,” Valaitis said.
The center provides an array of programs, including sexual assault crisis services, homeless youth services, training programs for the unemployed and after-school programs at three Meriden elementary schools.
Stephanie Garcia is a 19-year-old sophomore at Southern Connecticut State University. She learned leadership skills through her involvement with another United Way-supported organization, the Spanish Community of Wallingford.
Garcia said she is the first member of her family to attend college, a goal she learned to strive for because of her involvement with SCOW’s youth leadership program.
“We are very appreciative of the support we receive from the United Way,” Garcia said. “Thank you… Because of you we have accomplished so much.”