Soup Kitchens, Miles of Smiles Supported by United Way Gifts

In 1996, Linda Putnam realized she was dying of metastatic colon cancer. She assumed she’d spend her last days of life in a nursing home.

“When we told her that she was going home to be with her family and be cared for by hospice nurses, she was relieved,” says Putnam’s daughter, Camille Dolansky, project coordinator for planned giving. “Having hospice care made a huge difference. They provided the care that we couldn’t have done on our own, and treated Mom with profound respect.”

Linda and her husband, Glenn, who also died of lung cancer in 2002 with hospice care, never had to pay a penny out of pocket. Their care was provided by two Texas-based hospice organizations, supported by their local United Way agencies. United Way is a national network of local organizations that work to advance the common good by focusing on education, income and health.

Wesleyan is an annual sponsor of the Middlesex United Way, and has set a goal to raise $140,000 through the Wesleyan Employee Campaign.

“Certainly there are many in our community who need assistance during these challenging economics times. Regardless of our capacity, each of us can do something to help,” says Wesleyan President Michael Roth. “The need is great, perhaps greater than in past years. We can do something.”

The Middlesex United Way’s focus areas include community care, affordable housing, independent living, personal and community safety, positive youth development, promoting volunteerism and school readiness.

Through the Wesleyan Employee Campaign, donors have the option of directing their gift towards any one focus area or one of 22 external funding partners. These include the Amazing Grace Food Pantry, the Community Health Center’s Miles of Smiles Program, Middlesex Hospital’s Opportunity Knocks Program, Nehemiah Housing Corporation, Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater, Shoreline Soup Kitchens and Pantries, YMCA of Northern Middlesex Country’s Kids Korner Program, the John J. Driscoll United Labor Agency, and others.

The 2008-09 Employee Campaign Chair Mike Whaley, vice president for student affairs, hopes that more than 50 percent of Wesleyan employees will participate.

He suggests regular contributors increase their donation to meet the growing demands on the many community agencies that depend on Wesleyan’s support. He also asks those who are new at Wesleyan or who have not contributed, to consider making an employee gift.

“The Wesleyan community is generous and cares deeply about those living in our larger community,” Whaley says. “Given the tough economic climate this year, it may be more difficult for us to give to the campaign for the first time or to increase our gift. But, it is absolutely critical that we consider doing so because the need is so great in our community.”

During the 2007-08 campaign, Wesleyan raised $136,098 through 498 employees and 24 vendors. According to the United Way of America, Wesleyan ranked first in per capita giving, second in average gift and fifth in total dollars among public and private universities served by similar sized United Ways. Locally, Wesleyan ranked third in total giving and was named a corporate “Silver Sponsor.”

Employees can donate to the campaign by filling out a Middlesex United Way Employee Pledge Form supplied by their department coordinator. Employees can make a one-time gift or sign-up for payroll deduction.

“Even a $5 or $50 contribution will make a difference,” Whaley says.

Middlesex United Way serves the 15 towns in Middlesex Country including Chester, Clinton, Cromwell, Deep River, Durham, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Killingworth, Middlefield, Middletown, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook.

Donors also may direct their donation to another United Way if their annual pledge exceeds $52. Those that pledge more than $1,000 will become members of Wesleyan’s Leadership Circle.

Those who give may receive. Every employee who contributes will be entered in a raffle where he or she can win prizes and gift certificates.

“United Way agencies reach out to folks in all walks of life, providing services that enrich their lives,” Dolansky says. “In the case of my parents, United Way agencies enriched their final days by affording them dignity, comfort and peace, surrounded by family.”