Region’s needs have grown larger

Bob Gorman

Nancy Reagan, John Glenn and Lloyd Bentsen were all born in 1921. And so, too, was the Watertown Community Chest.

The names of those who signed the “Articles of Incorporation” on Sept., 26, 1921, are forever linked to the region’s industrial and banking history: Frank Rhines, George Stebbins and William Pruyn. And 10 of the 15 people who signed that document were women whose names were synonymous with the leadership of Watertown, including Nellie Willmott, Maud Reed, Mary Goodale and Alice Sherman.

Their mission was clearly stated: to raise and disburse money for “charitable, philanthropic, eleemosynary and benevolent purposes.” And their ability to develop a sustainable organization is apparent 92 years later.

Eventually merging with united appeal agencies formed by leaders in St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, the Watertown Community Chest has grown to become the United Way of Northern New York.

The impact of the United Way can be seen everywhere. It was united appeal support that led to the opening of the Boys & Girls Club in Ogdensburg 49 years ago. It has allowed for the continued operation of the SoZo Teen Center, which is now run by the Children’s Home of Jefferson County. And it is the reason that young families in Lewis County who have suffered job losses can get the financial assistance they need to keep their kids in daycare at Hand In Hand Early Childhood Center in Lowville.

And the need for the United Way has never been greater. As governments have cut back on grants since the recession began in 2008, nonprofits are increasingly turning to the United Way for help. Just this year, our 40 partners asked us to raise a combined $750,000 to help them meet their service goals for 2014.

And more nonprofits are knocking on our doors.

Not all of our nonprofits are very public about what they do. Some serve battered women, for instance, and so they are not going to send out a lot of glossy photos of satisfied customers. And the nonprofits that are indeed well-known will tell you the same story: they need other financially stable nonprofits to ensure their own success.

It’s easy to understand. The person who goes to Credo for substance abuse has likely lost his job, his income and his car. He needs the volunteer transportation to keep his appointments. His wife needs the Victim’s Assistance Center to recover from the hell he put her through. Their second-grader has outgrown his clothes and needs to go to the Impossible Dream Thrift store at the Urban Mission before schools starts.

And so to make one person whole, we need a cadre of nonprofits to ensure the entire family is made whole as well.

This year we will be looking to increase our ability to help our nonprofit partners by asking more north country citizens and businesses to join the United Way. If you are not a supporter of the United Way, please consider joining our “52 For U” campaign by pledging one dollar a week for the coming year. Businesses can deduct the dollar a week, making this a simple, painless way to join your neighbors in helping those who need the most help in Northern New York.

We intrinsically know that we all live better when we all give together. Thank you for helping the United Way improve the lives of north country residents.

Congrats to the WHS class of ’13

The Class of 2013 raised more money than was needed for this year’s prom and so they gave the remaining money to various organizations and causes.

The United Way of Northern New York was happy to receive a check for $800 in July. And it was a pleasure to speak to some of Watertown’s best and brightest: Valedictorian Siraj Sindhu, Class President Nemesis Ruiz and Class Treasurer Meghan L’Huillier.

Have speech, will travel

If your club or organization would like more details on the United Way and its impact on Northern New York, call me at 788-5631.

Robert D. Gorman is former managing editor of the Watertown Daily Times and president and CEO of the United Way of Northern New York. Contact him at or 788-5631.