As shared at the 2018 Annual Meeting:
First I wanted to say thank you to our volunteers, staff, and Board for entrusting me with the honor of helping lead this organization. To our outgoing President Ann McCrystal and our retiring Board members, thank you for your hard work, your time, and your significant contributions to this organization. We are a better United Way because of it.
When thinking about what lies ahead for our United Way over the next few years, I am both optimistic and realistic. Optimistic because we are an organization that continues to do tremendous good in Hunterdon County and we have an amazing story to tell. Whether it is the young woman who through our Thrive program moves from being one small step away from homelessness to having a steady job, a budget, and hope for one day buying a house; whether it is the senior citizen who uses our VITA program because he doesn’t have $300 to spend on an accountant and doesn’t have the confidence to complete his taxes himself, but who now receives a $1000 tax refund he did not know he was even eligible for; or the TIRO program that has touched the lives of more than 200 Latinos in Hunterdon County, helping improve their health and reduce their risk for such diseases as diabetes; or the young girl who was worried she would not have a backpack for her upcoming school year, but through our Tools for School program has all of the school supplies she needs to get through the year and reach her full potential; or the single underemployed father who doesn’t know how he is going to put Christmas gifts under the tree this year but thanks to Holiday Hands knows that his two kids will wake up on Christmas morning with new jackets and boots for the winter waiting for them. In these ways, and so many more, our volunteers and staff help improve the lives of countless Hunterdon County residents.
So yes, I am optimistic that an organization that does this much good will continue to have a place in our community.
But I am also realistic about the challenges we face These are existential challenges that are increasingly threatening all United Ways and indeed all non-profit organizations. With more and more charities reaching out to donors, and ever increasing need, the competition for charitable dollars is growing.
Which leads to the question – why us? Why donate to United Way as opposed to one of the thousands of other organizations that calls you at 8:00 at night at home, or sends you flyers in the mail, or asks for your donation when you are checking out at the grocery store. First off, I’m not saying not to give to those organizations – many are worthy and I encourage you to give as much as you can. But the reason why United Way of Hunterdon County should be your primary charity of choice is because the good we do has a tremendous impact right here, at home. We help your neighbors, your family, your friends. We help those who have no where else to turn, and those who just need a little help to set them on the path to success. We live in a wealthy place with tremendous access to just about anything you could want, but there are a tremendous number of Hunterdon County residents – living right down the street from you in plain sight – that are having trouble providing the most basic of needs for themselves and their children. For example, annually we provide about 1300 fully loaded backpacks to area schools for children in need whose parents would not otherwise be able to provide them with necessary school supplies for the upcoming school year. That means that even here in beautiful Hunterdon County, there are at least 1300 children who are living on the edge of – or in – poverty. So while the need in our area may not be as “in your face” as the need of those children you see on television commercials, it is a real need that we service right here in Hunterdon. Without United Way, that need goes unmet.
In the days, weeks, and months ahead we will continue to try to evolve as an organization – servicing the needs of our community while making necessary changes to adapt to this new fiscal reality we are living in. What I ask of each of you today is to continue to make us your charity of choice. Please continue to donate your skills, your time, and your money. Because in the end, all United Way is is its volunteers, staff, and donors. Without you, we are just a name and a logo. A logo doesn’t put presents under the tree, help a young woman get a new job and create a budget, or bring back to Hunterdon County over a million dollars every year in tax refunds for those in need. You do. Without you, we are nothing. And we need your help now more than ever.