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75th Anniversary Celebration a Great Success

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

 Dinner Kilts

Photo:  Tina Pirozzoli Photography - click here to see more

How do you recognize the efforts of thousands of volunteers and many, many more donors from a period of 75 years when the results of their efforts have literally changed and saved the lives of hundreds of thousands in the Greater Waterbury area?

The people who volunteered to take on this daunting task have become known as the 75th Anniversary Committee, led by Committee Chair Sandy Senich of US Trust, Bank of America.

Of course, they agreed that a party would be in order and 600 guests said yes to the invitation on May 3, gathering at the Aqua Turf club for a cocktail reception underwritten by MacDermid Performance Solutions, a dinner illuminated by dynamic history displays thanks to Hubbard Hall and Liberty Bank, a special dessert courtesy of Carmody, Torrance, Sandak, Hennessey LLP, a champagne toast sponsored by Webster Bank, invitations and other creative materials by WORX, and pay-it-forward coins sponsored by Summa & Ryan, P.C.

In addition, 60 bagpipers not only provided a bit of festive music but honored the heritage of the 2016-2017 annual campaign co-chairs, Mike Goralski and Frank Monteiro from MacDermid Performance Solutions.

A series of speakers told the audience of how United Way of Greater Waterbury started as a group of concerned citizens who noticed that some members of the community were struggling as the second world war called 12,500 from Waterbury and those at home dealt with their own battles.

History Chair Jim Smith of Webster Bank and 1994 Campaign Chair and recent Frederic and Lucy Kellogg Award honoree Dan Leever touched on some of the key points in the 75 year story, when the United Way of Greater Waterbury was first known as the Community Chest of Waterbury.

A red feather was the symbol of aid across the nation as local attorney Edward T. Carmody called a meeting to discuss what might be done to help local residents in need, recognizing that health, education, and grief were outcomes of the second world war and had an impact on everyone at home and serving abroad.

Orton P. Camp, Sr., became the chairman of the board and Walter F. Torrance, Sr., served as first president; Lois Sperry was a passionate volunteer and J. Francis Smith ran the first two fundraising campaigns.

The first goal was $277,000 but raised $337,000 plus an additional $82,000 for the War Fund.

As the war ended, needs changed and the group formed to address those needs changed to support 41 agencies.

Harry Liebeskind documented the spread of need in the 1946 annual report, "These problems are no respecters of city limits... they have a way of spreading."

Neighboring towns were brought under the umbrella that would be the United Way of Greater Waterbury and those 10 towns remain unified in both problems and solutions today.

Tools like the current Community Needs Assessment were started in 1969 as a priorities study and the Loaned Executives program began in 1980 to recruit volunteers who had leadership skills.

In the past decade, the United Way of Greater Waterbury has shifted from raising and distributing funds to becoming a community impact organization.
Some of the groups formed to help others include the Food Resource Committee, which helps those facing food insecurity and Bridge to Success to bring families and children together to ensure success in school, work, and life.

The Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness is helping those who are homeless or are at risk of homelessness. The Flexible Assistance Fund provides help to those facing hardships.

Recognizing that, as problems are solved today, there will always be a need for innovative solutions to help the community, several members of the Emerging Leaders program took to the stage to describe their commitment to the future.

The celebration of the past was also a time to rejoice in the results of the 2016-2017 annual campaign, which raised an historic amount, $4.1 million, to fund the work that will help the community today and tomorrow.

The gala event at the Aqua Turf Club is just the start of the celebrations that will remember how this remarkable non-profit started and move the United Way of Greater Waterbury into the future.

The largest-ever volunteer event is planned for the Day of Action on June 21 and there will be a huge thank you to agencies and partners on July 19. Along with a 75 year retrospective on October 25, the past will come alive when an old favorite, the bed race around the Waterbury Green, comes back to the city with a twist; teams are already working on improving the speed and handling of their beds.

As guests on May 3 held their champagne glasses high, the toast they gave will be said many times over this year, "Happy Birthday United Way of Greater Waterbury!"

 

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