WINSTED and TORRINGTON — The United Way of Northwest Connecticut held their 2021 campaign kickoff at Greenwoods Country Club on Thursday, Sept. 23.
The organization, which serves 26 communities in the Northwest Corner and has operated since 1943.
According to organization Executive Director Owen Quinn, last year was one of the toughest years the organization has faced, with donations to United Way organizations across the country dropping down from 40 to 60 percent.
“We are hoping for a rebound here,” Quinn said. “I hope we will never have to repeat last year ever again. The organization had that drop-off in donations all across the country because people were not working due to the pandemic. Even today the news came out that, for the second month in a row, jobless claims rose by 16,000 more claims than the previous month. The pain and agony are still there and the need is out there in the community. This is why the United Way is out there, to help everyone in need.”
The event honored essential workers and first responders from both Winsted and Torrington who worked tirelessly during the pandemic.
Among those honored were police officers, fire department volunteers, school district employees, and social workers from both Winsted and Torrington.
Both Friends in Service to Humanity (FISH) Executive Director Deidre DiCara and Winsted Mayor Candy Perez spoke at the event.
“Usually, our campaign kickoff events would have people dressed up like superheroes and Disney characters,” Quinn said. “But both I and the event committee looked at the event and we all thought that it was important to honor the real heroes.”
Quinn said that the organization’s fundraising campaign will end by late January and that the United Way will not set a fundraising goal for it.
“We’re in a rebuilding year,” Quinn said. “The United Way funds at least 30 agencies that affect people in crisis. Last year, we managed Operation Overflow for all of the homeless population during the winter months. We also managed to use money that we raised to give funds to people in need through a ‘gift wallet’ app so they could pay their electric bills and medical bills.”
“The people who were struggling before the pandemic still need our help today,” organization President Jim Hutchison said. “Other organizations all have had struggles during the pandemic, and the United Way is not immune to that. We do have the potential to rise again just as strongly to raise a lot of money for those people in need.”
For more information and to donate to the Northwest Connecticut United Way go to northwestunitedway.org
All photos by Shaw Israel Izikson