Each year, United Way of Hunterdon County recaps the prior year with an annual meeting to which all stakeholders, volunteers, donors, staff, and Board alike are invited. This year’s meeting had a full agenda including reporting on the activities since June of 2021. Bonnie Duncan, UWHC’s CEO, retiring after 25 years of service, said her farewells. A scholarship, resolution and proclamation were all made to honor her legacy. The Volunteer of the Year, Barbara Piwinski, was honored, four new Board members were inducted, incoming CEO, Brenda Esler, was introduced.
Bonnie Duncan has passionately and selflessly served the needs of Hunterdon County’s low- and moderate-income families for 25 years as the leader of United Way of Hunterdon County (UWHC). Throughout her tenure with United Way, Bonnie has been particularly passionate about reducing education, health, and financial stability disparities within our community. In her honor, United Way of Hunterdon County has established the Bonnie Duncan Scholarship Fund to support access to post-secondary education and/or certification among Hunterdon County students demonstrating financial need.
“This is one small way that we can honor Bonnie’s legacy,” said Becky Testa, outgoing UWHC Board of Trustees President who initiated the idea for the scholarship. “Our objective is to provide at least one $2500 annual scholarship to a deserving student every year.” she said. Duncan will work with a committee of the board to establish qualification and selection criteria, and it is expected that this same committee will oversee the application, selection, and distribution process on an annual basis.
The Senate and General Assembly of New Jersey praised Duncan’s efforts over twenty-five years with a joint legislative resolution. “The strength and success of our State and the vitality of our communities depend upon public-spirited individuals such as Bonnie Duncan who devote their professional abilities and talents to advance the quality of life for their neighbors and the greater good,” it read. Similarly, the Hunterdon County Board of Commissioners presented a proclamation. “Bonnie Duncan’s kindness, passion and dedication to her work exemplifies her legacy which will persist long after her retirement”, it read.
For Barbara Piwinski, volunteering is an integral part of her life. Piwinski, a 28-year resident of Hunterdon County, was the recipient of the 2022 United Way of Hunterdon County’s (UWHC) Volunteer and Donor of the Year Award. This honor is generally awarded to a devoted volunteer, advocate, leader and donor. Piwinski represents all those attributes.
“Barbara embodies everything that our work is about,” said Bonnie Duncan. “She gives of her time, shares her skills, and annually donates. Her contribution over the last 10+ years is immeasurable. She has had a hand in nearly every program on some level and has consistently donated over the years.”
Four new Board of Trustees members were inducted to the UWHC Board. Andrew Sinclair of Readington Township, Kristy Talorico of Ringoes, Jeffrey Moore of Clinton Township, and Don Atkinson of Raritan Township will all serve a three-year term. “We are so fortunate to have these four talented, dedicated individuals join the Board,” said Rob Crane, incoming Board of Trustees president. “They each bring a unique perspective and a valuable skill set to the table.”
New board member Kristy Talorico noted, “I have several close family members who are or have been ALICE for years. Every story I hear about the clients we help reminds me of someone I love who is in the same position. I’m passionate about the potential to make contributions in my own community to financially secure themselves and their families,” (Note: ALICE refers to United Way’s acronym for Asset Limited Income Constrained, Employed).
In addition, incoming CEO Brenda Esler was introduced to the attendees. Esler, who currently serves as Executive Director for EmPoWER Somerset, will be taking the reins starting August 1st. “I am so pleased to be here, and I’m honored to be given this opportunity to continue to uphold Bonnie’s legacy. I’m excited for all that the future holds.” New board member Rob Crane commented, “We are thrilled to welcome Brenda to UWHC. She brings valuable skills and experience in organizational development, collaborative leadership, and communication, as well as a passion for partnerships for community impact. We look forward to her leadership as an influential advocate for ALICE.”
United Way of Hunterdon County brings people and resources together to improve lives and conditions, and to advance the common good of our community. They are a community center of volunteerism, leadership, and philanthropy that envisions a community where all individuals and families achieve their full potential through income stability, healthy lives, and education. Donations to United Way of Hunterdon County can be made at www.uwhunterdon.org/donate.