Greenwich Time, Thursday, September 22, 2016
By Ken Borsuk
GREENWICH — Kicking off its annual campaign, the Greenwich United Way had a message for the community: Help us help the town of Greenwich.
Last year the nonprofit invested more than $1 million to help town human services programs as well as its own programs like Reading Champions, which assists literacy efforts in all Greenwich public schools, and the development of the needs assessment to identify those most in need of help.
In order to continue that work, public support is needed, United Way officials said in launching the agency’s 2016-17 capital campaign Wednesday evening at Greenwich Hospital.
The campaign tries to get help from new donors as well as regular contributors. Efforts through the agency’s mailing list and social media are ramping up.
“We believe the demographics of Greenwich are changing, and there is a growing number of people that care about human services in our town,” Greenwich United Way Board of Directors Chairwoman Karen Keegan said. “As those numbers grow, we are growing our efforts to reach them.”
Funding local agencies
Greenwich United Way CEO David Rabin said the agency is the community’s safety net, because it helps fund valuable programs that have shortfalls. The United Way’s community investment process is expected to start in October and to last four months, evaluating local nonprofit programs to determine the greatest need.
All the money raised by the capital campaign goes directly to helping out with problems identified by the United Way’s needs assessment, according to the agency. This past year, 20 local agencies received funding from the United Way as a result of the capital campaign.
“We are the finder, the funder and the fixer of human service needs in the town of Greenwich,” Rabin said. “The volunteer work that goes into that is phenomenal.”
First Selectman Peter Tesei was on hand along with Alan Barry, director of the town’s Department of Social Services, and members of the Board of Social Services and Board of Estimate and Taxation. But Tesei didn’t just bring his support for the Greenwich United Way. He also had the stark statistics about the town’s challenges.
According to data from the Greenwich United Way’s needs assessment, which was released in May, more than 3,100 town residents are living at the poverty level and more than 15 percent of the 8,000 students in the public schools qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch because of their income level.
That number is a 50 percent increase from the level of students measured in the last needs assessment, which was 2010. The assessment said services for children and families is the top priority, because of a gap in available services getting to those in need.
The town’s population also includes close to 7,500 residents who qualify as asset limited, income constrained and employed (ALICE), which means they are the working poor in the community who are barely above the poverty level and therefore are ineligible for public assistance programs.
Tesei said the needs assessment also showed a growing demand for mental health and substance abuse services without a related growth in the reach and funding of those services. The needs for seniors have also grown, and Tesei noted that 18 percent of Greenwich’s population is now seniors. And one-third of those residents have incomes of $50,000 a year or below, putting them in precarious situations because the high cost of living.
“While Greenwich enjoys a long-standing reputation as one of the premier towns to live in this country, Greenwich is illustrative of a population where human services needs know no boundary,” Tesei said, calling the United Way the backbone of identifying and addressing needs in the community.
Tesei stressed the importance of the public/private partnership between the town and the Greenwich United Way as well as the town’s tradition of support.
“It is my firm belief that this year’s needs assessment will be the blueprint and foundation for how our residents, businesses and service agencies will continue to rally together to develop meaningful solutions to the problems and issues that plague our community,” Tesei said.
The event was held at Greenwich Hospital because it has been a major supporter of the Greenwich United Way for decades. Hospital CEO Norman Roth, a member of the new Greenwich United Way advisory board, said close to $1 million has been raised over 30 years, making it the largest workforce-based supporter.
Roth pledged that once again hospital employees would be working as United Way “captains,” getting support from their co-workers and colleagues.
“The goals of our hospital and the Greenwich United Way are very closely linked,” Roth said. “We both care for members of our community in many ways and we both want to improve our citizens’ health and quality of life.”
Keegan not only thanked Greenwich Hospital for its financial support but in sharing data about unmet needs in town. She said that helped develop the needs assessment.