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Lewis United Way campaign kicks off

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LOWVILLE — United Way of Northern New York unveiled new faces, new goals and a new message for all contributors Friday.

Robert D. Gorman, newly installed chief executive officer, met with representatives from participating agencies at the Lewis County Campaign Kickoff Picnic at the Lewis County Fairgrounds.

One of the first tasks to accomplish, Mr. Gorman said, “isn’t to raise money, it’s to raise standards of our nonprofits.” He said the process by which nonprofits are involved with United Way ensures that every agency is “open and accountable.”

Contributors can be confident that those receiving donations are using the funds as they are intended.

“I don’t just fund agencies. I fund programs within agencies,” Mr. Gorman said. “The person that gives money can see what their money has done.”

Denise L. Harper, administrative director of Hand in Hand Early Childhood Center, described how United Way benefits children at her agency. She said, “I’ve always donated but didn’t really know what it went for.”

Now, she said, she’s seen the benefits firsthand. Donations to United Way go to Hand in Hand’s tuition assistance program, providing “a continuity of care” for families that may experience temporary financial or custodial issues. Her agency also boasts a 100 percent employee participation rate in contributing to the United Way.

In sharing these success stories, Mr. Gorman said he hopes to have more employers and individuals join the United Way’s mission.

A long-term goal for Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties is to attract 4,800 new contributors.

With just a $1 donation per week, those numbers would boost the total yearly donations from the current tally, approximately $750,000 a year, to $1 million.

For this year, Mr. Gorman is hoping for 1,000 new contributors. “I’m looking for people, not dollars,” he said.

Though new to the United Way position, Mr. Gorman is not unfamiliar with the three counties, having recently retired as managing editor of the Watertown Daily Times.

“He has his finger on the pulse of the community,” said Jane V. Schmitt, United Way board president.

Chairman of the campaign in Lewis County this year is Jeremiah S. Papineau, managing editor of the Carthage Republican Tribune and Journal and Republican.

Mr. Papineau, who served on past campaign fundraising teams for the United Way of the Adirondack Region while employed in Plattsburgh, encouraged the group to spread the word about the United Way’s mission.

“We’re here to help organizations like you, and your promotion of the United Way helps us in that mission,” he said.

In the coming weeks, United Way will be reaching out to employers to start workplace campaigns. Those interested in partnering with United Way or in arranging contributions should call 788-5631.

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