The United Way of Greater Waterbury began its 2019-2020 annual fundraising campaign with a kickoff breakfast held Thursday, September 05, 2019, at La Bella Vista Wedding & Banquet Venue in Waterbury.

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Mike O’Connor, United Way of Greater Waterbury campaign chair welcomed Emerging Leader Isabela Montoya and UPSTARTER Elise Taylor to the podium during the 2019-2020 Campaign Kickoff Breakfast held Thursday, September 5, 2019.  Together, they described how the United Way connects volunteers to the community.

Hundreds of community members listened to Campaign Chair Mike O’Connor, regional president for the Waterbury, Connecticut, Market of Webster Bank, as he and other United Way representatives described how the non-profit organization brings together data, volunteers, and strategies to move the community forward in the three impact areas of Education, Financial Stability, and Basic Needs.

Kara J. Summa, United Way Chair, Board of Directors, told everyone, “These strategies take care of immediate needs AND help to prevent problems from happening in the first place.”  Summa continued, “The key to success is that we are volunteer driven. Decisions are made by volunteers who serve on our Board – and on the Community Impact Councils who evaluate community needs and program outcomes with the United Way team.  They ensure your dollars are invested where they are needed most, and will deliver the best results.”

When someone invests in United Way of Greater Waterbury, 90.97% of every dollar raised is invested in programs and services that help individuals and families access the resources they need to return to a stable life, whether that resource is food, healthcare, housing, financial coaching, job training, or even something as simple as a book that a child can use to boost vocabulary and be better prepared for a successful school experience.

For example, United Way is investing in several after school programs - all using the Developmental Assets approach. The framework was developed by The Search Institute, that has identified 40 positive supports and strengths that young people need to form a strong foundation that will lead to success in life.
The more assets a youth has, the:
•    Less likely they are to engage in high-risk behaviors
•    Less likely to drop out of school
•    More likely to thrive now and in the future
•    More likely to be resilient when facing challenges

Breanna credits the Linking Academics to Life program at Waterbury Youth Services, a United Way of Greater Waterbury partner agency, with helping her become more confident with more self-esteem and a greater sense of control.  “I realized that I was in charge of my life.”  She began her first classes at Southern CT State University at the same time the community leaders enjoyed breakfast; her goal is to one day work with kids and, “Ensure that the kids she reaches feel seen.”

“How many youth in our community fall through the cracks because they feel invisible?”  Summa asked before she introduced the Office of Early Childhood Sparkler Initiative, an app that will be piloted by Waterbury Bridge to Success through the Women Infants and Children program at the Waterbury Health Department.

The Sparkler Initiative is a pilot with early care and other providers to help improve child developmental through screening & communication, and promotion with families through interactive app-based technology.

“Children do best in stable environments – our vision is for all Greater Waterbury residents to have adequate self-sufficiency for themselves and their families.”  Summa stated.  “To that end we support programs and initiatives that increase household income – approaches that include financial literacy – financial coaching and savings programs to encourage financial stability.”

“It’s all about creating the change. And it doesn’t happen without you, the change-makers,” she said.
Asking everyone present to share success stories from United Way of Greater Waterbury with friends, family and colleagues, O’Connor announced, “We have a very ambitious $4 million dollar campaign goal but, together, we can Create the Change we all want to see in our community!”

Watch the Campaign Video Here