SOUTHINGTON - United Way of Southington kicked off its annual campaign Wednesday morning at Manor Inn, highlighting its efforts to assist local nonprofits, including providing rides for local seniors.
The breakfast event was attended by many supporters and movers and shakers in town, including Superintendent of Schools Tim Connellan; Town Councilor Dawn Miceli; and John Myers, executive director of the local YMCA. Each table was decorated with apples in recognition of the Apple Harvest Festival later this month.
Art Secondo, vice president of United Way of Southington, welcomed the guests and praised the “generous people of Southington” who have supported volunteer organizations like United Way, The Lions Club and Kiwanis Club over the years. United Way of Southington, he said, has been serving the local community since 1926.
Secondo then introduced United Way’s executive director, Jack Eisenmann.
Eisenmann thanked the United Way board and said he “couldn’t do it without them.” He also thanked those companies whose employees have supported United Way, such as Hartford HealthCare, which he said is “right behind us in everything we do.”
“We have been making inroads with our fundraising and identified new revenue streams,” said Eisenmann. “We have also identified the need for seniors to have rides, which is why we have been supporting Senior Transportation Services, Inc. Thank you all for being a part of our community. We hope to have a great campaign this year and to continue our mission to support those who need assistance with food, child care and health care.”
Secondo then introduced Curtis Robinson, who shared the inspirational story of how he came to Connecticut at age 16 from Alabama and spent his first night sleeping in Bushnell Park. The next day he got a job washing dishes, and 15 years later he owned several hotels, something he noted could “only happen in America.” Later in life, after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and surviving, he donated $1 million to support pancreatic cancer treatment at St. Francis Hospital.
“We have treated 13,000 men and saved 65 lives,” said Robinson, who is now 70. “At the end of the day, God won’t ask you how much money you made or how many cars you bought but what you did with the gift of life he gave you.”
Rob Flood, president of United Way of Southington, then explained how United Way of Southington got started.
“Back in 1926 a small group of seven priests, ministers and rabbis realized that they were all trying to give back but they were working apart,” he said. “They came to the conclusion that they should hold fundraisers together and thereby raise more money than if they were to hold individual events, which could then be divided among them. In Southington, we work well together to get done what needs to get done.”
Flood encouraged those who attended the campaign kickoff to contribute at least $2 from each paycheck to United Way of Southington. He then introduced Nancy Morrissey, executive director of Senior Transportation Services, and explained how their program has benefited from United Way’s support.
“Last year they were able to give out 181 rides in Southington and this year so far they have given 787, that’s a 335 percent increase,” said Flood. “The numbers are staggering and this is just the beginning. Of those rides, 12 went to the bank, 21 to the pharmacy and 22 seniors went to get their hair done. I don’t know of any other community that offers a service like this for free.”
Morrissey said Senior Transportation Services serves Southington, Berlin, New Britain, Meriden and Wallingford. In other communities, they only provide transportation for medical appointments, but due to the support they have received in Southington they can provide more. With the growing demand for rides, she said, the non-profit is now in need of drivers to volunteer to provide at least two rides a month.
“We have increased our number of clients by 28 since January,” she said. “There are 20 more applicants waiting to receive approval. Many of these rides help people get to cancer treatments or dialysis. We currently have 33 drivers and we probably need to add another 60.”
Morrissey said one of her drivers has provided 94 rides since March.
“There is nothing like the feeling of knowing that you are helping out the community,” she said.
In addition to Senior Transportation Services, United Way of Southington supports Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Bread for Life, Catholic Charities, Child Guidance Clinic, Community Mental Health Affiliates, Connecticut Legal Services, Literacy Volunteers of Central CT, the Margaret Griffin Child Development Center, Mulberry Gardens’ Adult Daycare Program, the Prudence Crandall Center, The Salvation Army, Hartford HealthCare at Home, YMCA of Southington and YWCA’s Sexual Assault Crisis Service.
For more information on United Way of Southington, call 860-628-4565 or visit unitedwayofsouthington.org.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.