United Way Celebrates 85th Anniversary

On March 29th the United Way of South Central Massachusetts (UWSCM) celebrated its 85th Anniversary with a Campaign Awards and Jazz Dinner held at Samuel Slater’s Restaurant and Banquet Hall.   The night included discussion of the exciting memories from the many years United Way has been operating in the towns of Southbridge, Sturbridge, Charlton, Webster and Dudley.  What was once two separate United Ways that merged in 2020, many organizations and residents in the five towns have benefited from services they have been able to fund Music was provided by the Jerry Seeco Jazz Trio, and guests were able to participate in a Mystery Raffle and silent auction.

UWSCM Board President, Kris Marier started the night off with an introduction of past executive directors from both United Ways, past board presidents, board members and special guests MA State Representative Joseph McKenna and MA State Senator Ryan Fattman.  He also recognized the main sponsors INCOM, Inc. and SAVERS BANK along with all of the lead sponsors. 

The program included 2022 Campaign Chairwoman Denise Gorski who remarked “I am delighted to announce that we have reached our $584,000 goal and actually exceeded it by 4%.  Our initial worries about the success of the campaign were for not.  It was all possible with the help of the many workplace campaigns at local businesses, foundations and individual donors.”  Ms. Gorski stated that the goal was the highest ever set by the United Way because we had granted the highest amount ever to local programs that provided for the health, education and financial needs of many in the communities that we serve. 

Worcester County Sheriff, Lew Evangelidis was the Guest Speaker for the evening.  He recounted his first experience with the Community Justice Support Center in Webster when he started as Sheriff and how far it has come serving an increasing number of district courts with recovery and rehabilitation assistance.  The work that is being done provides those incarcerated and on probation with access to services and opportunities to turn their lives around for the better.  Sheriff Evangelidis stated “To give a hand up, out of an endless cycle of public assistance and criminal behavior.’  That his mission as sheriff is similar to United Way’s logo of a hand raising someone up and not just giving a handout.  “That we have a shared purpose of helping those in need and providing a way for them to live in dignity, with purpose and opportunities.”

State Representative Joseph McKenna and State Senator Ryan Fattman presented on behalf of the Massachusetts House of Representatives a Congratulations Citation to the United Way of South Central MA in recognition of “The celebration of an incredible 85 years servicing the people across Southern Worcester County”.

The evening concluded with remarks from UWSCM Executive Director, Mary O’Coin who stated “That we have grown over the years from a Community Chest in 1937 to today’s United Way.  We are still very home grown.  Concentrating on how we can help the residents in the five towns that we serve.  Charlton, Dudley, Southbridge, Sturbridge and Webster are wonderful communities with very generous people.  It was now time honor a few of them”.  She presented awards to local businesses who performed at high levels of giving through their employee and corporate gifts.

The following companies and organizations received GOOD NEIGHBOR Awards for combined gifts of over $10,000 or more:  bankHometown, UMASS Memorial Health – Harrington, and Webster First Federal Credit Union.  SILVER Award was present to SAVERS BANK for having 85-99% of their employees participate in their campaign.  DIAMOND Awards were presented to the following businesses and foundations for giving of over $30,000;  Cornerstone Bank, Dexter-Russell, Inc., Fundación MAPFRE,  Incom, Inc. and KARL STORZ Endovision.  Special “Excellence in Giving” awards for increasing workplace campaigns were presented to SAVERS BANK for a 26% increase and KARL STORZ Endoscopy America for increasing their campaign by 76%.  A BEACON Award was presented to CORNERSTONE BANK for their contribution of almost $80,000 to this year’s campaign and for being an inspiration to other businesses to give generously.  An individual UNSUNG HERO award was presented to UWSCM board member Shana Bandelean for outstanding support throughout the year.  A first time FOUNDATION AWARD was presented to Gerald and Marilyn Fels for their outstanding support and philanthropy in Webster and Dudley.  The last award of the night was presented to past UWSCM board president William Keefe.  He received the PRESIDENT’S AWARD for his lifelong commitment to service  as a former member of the military, as a police officer and Webster Police Chief, and for his many years as a member of the United Way of Webster & Dudley board, his three years as UWWD board president and for being instrumental in the merger of the two United Ways and becoming the first board president of the United Way of South Central Massachusetts.  

The evening concluded with raffle prizes, music and the continued hope for another 85 years of service by the United Way.