BY JUSTIN SONDEL
Niagara Gazette —
The United Way of Greater Niagara has surpassed its fundraising goal for the Community Care Campaign for the third year in a row.
Community supporters and United Way staff gathered in the atrium of the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute to celebrate the end of the successful drive over a breakfast served by culinary institute students. The campaign exceeded its stated goal of $1.31 million, bringing in $1,312,451 over the course of the two-month drive.
Carol Houwaart-Diez, the president of the United Way of Greater Niagara, said she was especially happy to reach the campaign goal this year with outside circumstances - uncertainty in the community due to a difficult budget process, Hurricane Sandy - making fundraising more difficult.
"People want to help but there are limits to how much you can ask people to give," Houwaart-Diez said.
She said the community came together to make the fundraising goal a reality.
"There are so many companies and individuals that stepped up to the plate," Houwaart-Diez said.
Houwaart-Diez told the crowd the breakfast was a celebration of the community's generosity.
"Today is not a celebration of our success, but a celebration of what our success and your generosity can do for the people across Niagara County who are searching for a light in the darkness," Houwaart-Diez said. "In a true community, people look out for one another and support each other. You have shown, once again, why Western New York is the greatest community in the world."
Houwaart-Diez also thanked the hard-working staff of five and the many volunteers who helped to make the drive a success.
"We are a small staff and it really is the volunteers in our community who make this a great place to live, work and play," Houwaart-Diez said.
James Klyczek, the president of Niagara County Community College, served as the honorary chair of this year's campaign. He said that meeting the goal was evidence of the many people who helped out.
"Everybody did as much as they could and some did more," Klyczek said. "It's, I think, a reflection of the Niagara community."
Klyczek, too, said that without the collective efforts of United Way staff, volunteers, and community groups the campaign would not be able to reach its goal.
"They play a very, very important role and I hope to recognize them this morning as well," Klyczek said.
Klyczek said his involvement in this year's campaign let him truly discover the strong sense of community in the Niagara Region.
"As a community we believe in the cause," Klyczek said. "We have seen the results and, together, we can achieve a brighter future and stronger community."