United Way campaign kicks off

Lisa Pfeiffer, executive director of the United Way of Fulton County welcomes guests to the United Way Community Campaign Kick Off Breakfast at the Holiday Inn on Wednesday. (The Leader-Herald/Kerry Minor)

GLOVERSVILLE –United Way of Fulton County Director Lisa Pfeiffer sees her organization’s job as much more than a fundraising organization.

“It is important to raise money, it truly is important. But, it is just as important to make a difference in life. And, that is what United Way is striving to do. Yes we need the money, but we also need to encourage our fellow man, woman and child that they matter, and that what they are trying to do stands for something.”

To help meet these goals, the United Way depends on the generosity of the community through its Community Campaign.

The United Way of Fulton County has kicked off its 2017-18 fundraising campaign on Wednesday with its annual breakfast at the Holiday Inn.

Assemblyman Marc Butler, who helps sponsors the breakfast, told those in attendance that the United Way of Fulton County is not only impressive for the amount they raise to help those in need, but how the staff stretches those dollars to make programs work.

“Through the years that I have had the honor to serve in the assembly, I have been so impressed with The United Way, especially here in Fulton County.

Butler said in Fulton County, the United Way strives to meet the continuing needs of the community. Butler said that while the economy shows signs of improving, many needs still have to be met.

“I am committed to the United Way, and even though I am getting a little older, and yes will be retiring in a few short months, I will continue to support The United Way of Fulton County,” Butler said.

Jennifer Donnelly of Sen. James Tedisco’s office read a statement from the senator to mark the event. Donnelly stated the United Way helps support vital programs in Fulton County.

“By helping the United Way, people are also helping 14 local human service agencies and in turn help their fellow Fulton County neighbors,” Donnelly read.

Domestic Violence Program Manager at the Family Counseling Center Chenda “Ree” Beers was chosen as this year’s featured speaker. The featured speakers inform the audience of how the services they provide are helped by the work of The United Way.

Beers said her program provides services to victims and survivors of domestic violence. These services include safe shelter, support groups, supportive counseling, information and referrals among many others.

“Just being that support system a victim will need in order to navigate through and face all the obstacles they need on a day to day basis,” Beers said.

Beers said one of the reasons her agency is able to provide the services to victims that they do, is the help offered by The United Way of Fulton County.

“Our program not only receives available resources from the United Way, but we also receive direct support from them in assisting us to coordinate the services we need to provide to our clients in the Domestic Violence Program.”

Beers said The United Way plays a vital roll in ensuring the program’s mission reaches the clients in need.

Beers, who is new to her position, said in her first two weeks on the job, Pfeiffer reached out to her to welcome her and to offer any support she could give.

“[She] provided that support, that encouragement that motivation that really was a wonderful experience for us all in the Domestic Violence Program,” Beers said. “The Fulton County Domestic Violence Program would like to thank the United Way for believing in our vision and we look forward to our continued relationship with United Way.”

The United Way of Fulton County has a number of avenues through which it supports the Fulton County community.

Pfeiffer highlighted the Bed, Bath and Beyond Good 360 program that the UWFC is involved with. This program sees the United Way get household goods to people in need, mainly through referrals. Those who can show a need, can get household items such as sheets, towels and flatware.

“We are crafty at coming up [with a] reuse for a lot of these items. They are high end as they come from the Bed, Bath and Beyond store on Wolf Road in Colonie. We have realized to date nearly $100,000 in retail value that we have given out to the community to those in need,” she said

Pfeiffer said the Bed, Bath and Beyond program has helped develop a number of partnerships with other agencies. The Salvation Army of Fulton County and HFM Prevention Council allow the use of their vans to pick up items.

“They are stocked to the gills when they come back,” she said. “That has saved us the need to rent a tractor trailer or a truck of some kind to bring these items back. So that is a tremendous savings for us.”

Through this program, The United Way has also created a volunteer partnership with a local recovery house. Pfeiffer said those living there are obligated to partake in community service. But many times, Pfeiffer said they come on their own seeking to help.

Other’s help the United Way by doing things such as hauling bins of mailers or talking with others about the Untied Way.

Pfeiffer said one generous donor even provides hygiene products, something that isn’t covered by food stamps and can sometimes be hard to find at food pantries for those in need.

Three weeks into the campaign, the United Way is nearing $20,000 toward its $150,000 goal. Pfeiffer said the United Way has secured around $6,100 in state set aside funding for local food pantries.

“We are always looking for inroads to make the most of what we have,” Pfeiffer said.

Pfeiffer said in 2008, right around the time of the Great Recession, donations to the United Way went from $150,000 a year to $50,000. Pfeiffer said that could have been defeating, but that the community stepped up to help.

“When you need something, you ask for it. And this community comes through one way or another,” she said.

She said the organization had to become extremely creative in how it solves some of its funding issues.

“But, we are meeting our goals and we are determined to see to it that our mission is met and that our agencies are funded,” Pfeiffer said. “This year, we were able to give all of them a bit of a jump.”

“I’m just really grateful to be able to stand here and give you these success stories. With every success story there [are] always sad stories. We unfortunately live in a culture of poverty, we all know that. I still struggle with difficulty,” she said. “But when I put my feet on the floor in the morning and I think to myself, if I can make a difference in one person’s life, even if it’s my own pet, I’m making a difference. That’s why I’m here and that’s why I’ll be here as long as they continue to have me.”

The community campaign runs through Aug. 31. For more information, go to the United Way of Fulton County website at www.uwfultoncounty.org or call (518) 725-9817.

Kerry Minor can be reached at kminor@leaderherald.com.