Leominster, Mass. – Thanks to more than 5,000 contributors, United Way of North Central Massachusetts will provide over 100,000 health and human services to 22 local communities, from Athol to Littleton.
Donors and volunteers were recognized during its annual thank-you celebration, held Wednesday at the DoubleTree by Hilton, Leominster. Suzanne Farias, general manager for the DoubleTree by Hilton, and volunteer campaign chairman for United Way of North Central Massachusetts, thanked the nonprofit organization’s volunteers and donors for contributing to this year’s fundraising efforts.
“We all win when a child succeeds in school, when families are financially stable and when people have good health," Farias said.
The annual community campaign, which includes corporate gifts, employee giving and individual donations, funds health and human service programs focused on education, health and income.
The evening celebrated United Way’s initiatives, United Way Youth Venture, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, Heroes Against Hunger and the United Way Community Impact Fund, which supports over 40 health and human service programs in the region.
United Way Youth Venture, managed by Mount Wachusett Community College, is a school-based program that empowers young people to make positive change in their community; it reaches over 4,000 students in 14 schools across seven districts, including Mount Wachusett Community College.
Dolly Parton Imagination Library, designed to improve school readiness, provides a free book every month to children through five years old who live in Fitchburg, Leominster, Gardner, Templeton and Winchendon.
Heroes Against Hunger is a program in which volunteers package meals for local families in need. Since the program was launched, nearly 350,000 meals have been donated to 20 food pantries.
United Way Community Impact Fund supports health and human services programs, with a specific focus on youth development and emergency food and utility assistance.
Fran Longton, volunteer coordinator for United Way of North Central Massachusetts, recognized two United Way volunteers. Dot Mullen was lauded for being a United Way volunteer for 25 years. The 95 year old Fitchburg resident, who has seven children, 25 grandchildren, 41 great grandchildren and 3 great-great grandchildren, has also volunteered for numerous other organizations.
Pauline Roberge of Leominster, who has been a paraprofessional and job coach at the Leominster Center for Technical Education Innovation School for 13 years. She has secured numerous volunteer opportunities for her students so they develop important life skills to advance their career opportunities.
The organization also used the event to launch a special drive, No Child Hungry Summer 2016, which aims to create 30,000 meals over the next 30 days.
According to Linda Racine, executive vice president of Rollstone Bank & Trust and a United Way of North Central Massachusetts board member, there are around 5,000 children in North Central Massachusetts who are food insecure—which means they don’t know where their next meal will come from. “These children lose that safety net when the school year ends. It is our goal to make sure no child goes hungry in North Central Massachusetts this summer.” Donations can be made through United Way’s website, www.uwncm.org or by texting hungry to 30306.
To call attention to the issue, Fitchburg State University interns Chris Grubel and Troy Hatch are asking their peers to take “The 18 Hour Challenge,” by not eating during that time and posting their feelings about the experience on social media websites with the hashtag #gohungryunited.
The evening also included recognition of local companies for conducting outstanding workplace employee-giving campaigns. United Way presented its Extraordinary Effort Chairman’s Award in four regions—for the Athol region to Town of Athol; Gardner region to Aubuchon Hardware; Twin Cities region to DRS Technologies; and in the Nashoba region, PolyOne.
Following the program, comedian John Higby, The Yo-Yo Guy, entertained the audience. The cost of the reception event is underwritten by: DoubleTree by Hilton, Leominster, Ardent Mills, Avidia Bank, Hannaford Bros. Co., Ms. Marina Raher, CPA, Rollstone Bank & Trust, Simonds International, Sterilite Corporation, Workers Credit Union and Target, Leominster.
Anyone interested in donating to the United Way may make a contribution online at www.uwncm.org or by calling 978-345-1577. Our website posts volunteer opportunities for upcoming Heroes Against Hunger events; check regularly to find out more information.