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United Way, Nesbitt aim for $325K fund-raising goal

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 September 2013 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – United Way of Orleans County kicked off its annual fundraising campaign tonight, setting a $325,000 goal. Lisa Ireland, United Way executive director, and honorary chairman Charlie Nesbitt announced the goal before agency leaders and campaign volunteers during a kickoff at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery in Medina.

MEDINA – Agencies that perform vital human services in Orleans County will have a well-known community cheerleader helping to raise money on their behalf in the coming months.

Charlie Nesbitt, the area’s former state assemblyman, is serving as honorary chairman for United Way of Orleans County’s annual fund-raising campaign.

This will be the organization’s first campaign since the merger of the Western and Eastern Orleans United Way chapters. The merger became official last December.

United Way raises funding for about 20 local agencies that serve youths, senior citizens, people with developmental disabilities and other residents.

Nesbitt didn’t need too much convincing to lead the fund-raising effort.

“I found out that real work is being done,” he told campaign supporters during a kickoff celebration at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery. “These aren’t things that are nice to do. These are things that have to be done.”

United Way leaders set a $325,000 fund-raising goal. That money is directed to agencies including 4-H and Cornell Cooperative Extension, Camp Rainbow through the Arc of Orleans, Meals on Wheels, Boy Scouts, Community Action’s Main Street store, Community Kitchen at Christ Episcopal Church in Albion, GCASA and Students United for Positive Action, Girl Scouts and Hospice of Orleans.

Honorary campaign chairman Charlie Nesbitt helps rally United Way supporters tonight during a campaign launch at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery.

Other funded agencies include Just Friends, Medina Youth Commission, Ministry of Concern, Habitat for Humanity, Orleans County Adult Learning Service, PathStone Domestic Violence Shelter, Regional Action Phone, Senior Citizens of WNY, and the Orleans County YMCA.

United Way held its first Day of Caring today, when about 80 volunteers worked on service projects at several sites throughout the county. Lisa Ireland, the United Way executive director, planned the event to fall on Sept. 11, the 12th anniversary of terrorists attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

She wanted the volunteers to turn a day of tragedy into a day devoted to service.

She noted that Baxter International in Medina sent 60 employees to work on projects in the community. Baxter and its employees contributed $54,000 to the 2013 campaign. Nelson Patterson, the company’s vice president in Medina, also serves on the United Way board.

Baxter bought the former Sigma in Medina, and employs 490 people, with another 60 other people working on a contractual basis.

Patterson wants the company and the employees to give back to Medina and Orleans County.

“Baxter has a heritage of being involved in our communities,” Patterson said at the United Way kickoff tonight.

Ireland praised Baxter for its commitment. She also commended Nesbitt for leading the new campaign.

Nesbitt was an Army helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. He played Little League with Ireland’s older brother Rick Engle, who also served in Vietnam. Engle did not come home alive. He was killed during the war.

Ireland said Nesbitt has always been kind to her family. When Ireland asked him to serve as honorary chairman for the fund-raising effort, Nesbitt said he couldn’t say no to Engle’s younger sister.

Nesbitt believes the community will respond to the campaign, giving to United Way and its member agencies.

“This is a very generous place,” he said about the county.