United Way kicks off fundraising campaign to support local agencies
MEDINA – United Way of Orleans County held its annual campaign kickoff Thursday night at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery.
While announcing an ambitious goal of $185,000, United Way ’s guests also heard success stories of people who have been helped because of the generosity of the community which supports the organization.
The theme of this year’s campaign is “Do whatever it takes,” and that’s what board president Jackie Gardner said they intend to do.
“The goal may be a challenge, but it is one we are up for,” Gardner said. “We are looking for a very successful campaign with the support of an amazing community.”
She said this evening always means so much.
“It’s when we get to meet all our partner agencies and show what they do,” she said.
Kaitlyn Delamarter, executive director of the local United Way, thanked the evening’s sponsors, which included OCALS, TakeForm, Jackie Gardner and the YMCA. Delamarter said it has been a privilege to work for an organization like United Way for the past year and to hear the stories of how United Way has been important in peoples’ lives.
Two speakers shared success stories made possible because of United Way support.
Mary Lee Knights is president of Orleans County Adult Learning Services, a group of nearly all volunteers who started out helping people to read, but have branched out to provide tutoring to schools and the workplace.
OCALS, which recently celebrated its 12th anniversary, has been receiving grants from United Way almost from its beginning. Last year, for the first time, they employed a team teaching concept to help a Syrian family who couldn’t speak a word of English.
“We had gone into a local company to pitch our workplace literacy program when we learned the father had gotten a job there,” Knights said.
After helping him learn English, OCALS recently found out the man has been promoted.
The second story of success was shared by Sherry McMillan, who several years ago moved to Texas with her small child.
“I had a great life and a great job, and then I was diagnosed with cancer,” McMillan said. “I had to pack my bags and come home.”
She was unable to work as she struggled through chemo at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
Then she learned of the job skills program provided by Community Action, a United Way -funded agency, at their Main Street Store in Albion.
She learned about retail, how to be organized and selling clothing.
“As the program went on, they worked around my chemo and other medical appointments,” McMillan said.
During her training, she met an at-risk kid whom she tutored in math and English.
“Because of the skills I learned in the program, I was able to research how to help him,” she said.
When the Main Street Store director Michelle George announced she wanted to become part-time, that provided a job opportunity for McMillan, who applied for and got the position.
“Without United Way and our generous donors, these stories would not be possible,” Delamarter said. “And there are so many more out there. We have a lot of new events coming into play this year and we are more than hopeful we can make our goal.”