WATERBURY — The United Way of Greater Waterbury began its 2019-20 annual fundraising campaign with a kickoff breakfast Thursday, September 5, at La Bella Vista Wedding and Banquet Venue, 380 Farmwood Rd.

Hundreds of community members listened to Campaign Chair Mike O’Connor, regional president for the Waterbury market of Webster Bank, as he and other United Way representatives described how the non-profit organization brings together data, volunteers, and strategies to move the community forward in the three impact areas of education, financial stability and basic needs.

United Way Board of Directors Chair Kara J. Summa said at the breakfast, “These strategies take care of immediate needs and help to prevent problems from happening in the first place.”

Ms. Summa continued, “The key to success is that we are volunteer driven. Decisions are made by volunteers who serve on our board – and on the Community Impact Councils who evaluate community needs and program outcomes with the United Way team. They ensure your dollars are invested where they are needed most and will deliver the best results.”

United Way of Greater Waterbury invests in programs and services that help individuals and families access the resources they need to return to a stable life, whether that resource is food, healthcare, housing, financial coaching, job training, or even something as simple as a book that a child can use to boost vocabulary and be better prepared for a successful school experience.

Those attending the breakfast heard the story of Breanna, a young woman who credits the Linking Academics to Life program at Waterbury Youth Services, a United Way of Greater Waterbury partner agency, with helping her become more confident with more self-esteem and a greater sense of control. “I realized that I was in charge of my life.”

She began her first classes at Southern Connecticut State University at the same time community leaders enjoyed breakfast; her goal is to one day work with kids and, “Ensure that the kids she reaches feel seen.”

“How many youth in our community fall through the cracks because they feel invisible?” Ms. Summa asked before she introduced the Office of Early Childhood Sparkler Initiative, an app that will be piloted by Waterbury Bridge to Success through the Women Infants and Children program at the Waterbury Health Department.

“Children do best in stable environments – our vision is for all Greater Waterbury residents to have adequate self-sufficiency for themselves and their families.” Ms. Summa explained. “To that end we support programs and initiatives that increase household income – approaches that include financial literacy – financial coaching and savings programs to encourage financial stability.”

“It’s all about creating the change. And it doesn’t happen without you, the change-makers,” she added.

Asking everyone present to share success stories from United Way of Greater Waterbury with friends, family and colleagues, Mr. O’Connor announced, “We have a very ambitious $4 million campaign goal but, together, we can Create the Change we all want to see in our community!”

Those seeking more information, including the new the Way Forward: The United Way of Greater Waterbury podcast, sign up for the Bed Races on October 19 and campaign videos such as Breanna’s story, go to https://www.unitedwaygw.org/gallery.

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