May 2016: Nonprofits Today

Nurturing the next generation of giving

Rande Richardson

Rande Richardson

In the most recent issue of NNY Living magazine (Spring 2016), Norah Machia, who has long written about the work of the region’s nonprofit organizations, presented inspiring examples of the next generation making a real difference. If you accept the premise that vibrant communities need things that government can’t, won’t or shouldn’t provide and that the private sector has not found a way to make profitable, then you also believe that our charitable sector needs passionate supporters of all ages and backgrounds who are willing to give time, talent and treasure. [Read more…]

Urban Mission open house showcases renovations

The Urban Mission in downtown Watertown invited community members into its newly renovated building — a construction project that would not have been possible without the community’s support and contributions from donors.

“It was close to 500 donors that made this possible, donors who literally had handfuls of change, had $20 cash from their minimum-wage job, to the Community Foundation that pledged $200,000 right out of the gate giving us the kickstart that we needed. KB Global Care (Knorr-Bremse Global Care), who put us over the top with a $200,000 donation at the end and every single one in between, you have all made it possible, and we love you and thank you equally,” said Erika F. Flint, executive director of the Watertown Urban Mission.

The Rev. Steven M. Murray of Holy Family Church, president of the board of directors for the Watertown Urban Mission, said, “This is a statement that the community cares.”

“This is truly a historic day for this organization, and we’re blessed to share it with all of you,” Father Murray said.

He said that although the building has a new finish, the organization’s mission remains what it always has been.

“Like the mission itself, the people serve by their generosity to make a major impact on our community, and by our collective support of this project, we send a tremendous word of encouragement to those that are struggling,” Father Murray said.

Mrs. Flint said the Wednesday event offered tours and welcomed the community to see the upgraded Urban Mission.

“Today was about being able to show appreciation for all the hard work people have done to make this possible,” Mrs. Flint said.

She said the building isn’t completely finished — there are some “behind the scenes” odd jobs around the facility, such as completing exterior work and some insulation, but nothing people will see.

“It will be really exciting to see where we’ll be in the next few months,” she said.

The renovations created a more efficient and cleaner space to provide services. Food Pantry Coordinator Anita D. Ciulo said the move of the food pantry from the basement to the first floor is a greatly needed change.

“It’s easier to keep clean and easier to keep the shelves stocked,” Mrs. Ciulo said.

She said the food pantry in the Urban Mission is the third largest of the 11-county region served by the Food Bank of Central New York. She said an average of 500 families use their services every month, and sometimes they see as many as 50 families a day.

The Rev. Melodie Long, an Urban Mission board member who toured the facility, said, “It’s amazing even from when we were here a month ago how much this has grown.”

The nonprofit has gone from six individual offices and three work stations to 14 private offices. Mrs. Flint said the updated facility and layout will allow all of the Urban Mission services to be operated under one roof and offer those who are in need of services more comfort and confidentiality.

Aside from the Impossible Dream Thrift Store the Urban Mission provides five major programs, including the food pantry, the critical needs program, the Bridge Program, the Christian Care Center and the HEARTH II Program, Mrs. Flint said. Other programs provided include Food $en$e, Dollar Dinners, the St. Dismas Fund and community service supervision.

Mrs. Flint said that with the new entrance on the side of the building, people will have a spacious place to be welcomed and directed to any services they need.

“Basically every inch of this building has been touched in some way,” said Mrs. Flint. “We now have an area where people can come in, and when they come in for services, they want confidentiality during the intake process.”

Michael C. Miller, CEO of MLW Consultants Inc., Syracuse, said that he has volunteered his consulting services to the Urban Mission for the past three years, and that being able to come to see the final product of everyone’s hard work was an amazing experience.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Mr. Miller said, “The sense of community is what allowed this to be possible.”

Milton E. Stroup, a Cape Vincent artist, carved more than two dozen wooden plaques with the different variations of the group’s nine-point star that commemorate different community sponsors. He said the work of the people in the Urban Mission has been commendable and he feels privileged to have worked with them and to watch the development of the facility.

“When people come in here, they’re never under the best circumstances,” Mr. Stroup said. “It takes a special person to do this job, and they’ve worked really hard.”


By Katherine Clark Ross