Niagara Gazette

November 11, 2013

GUEST VIEW: Dedication to community is key to United Way campaign

By Jerry Wolfgang
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — By most accounts, two weeks isn’t a long time, especially at this time of the year. With the holidays fast approaching and the days getting shorter, days and weeks seem to pass with increased fluidity. There’s much to do and, seemingly, not enough in which to get everything done. Surely, you can’t change a community in just two short weeks.

But that is exactly what United Way of Greater Niagara is trying to do.

Over the next two weeks, United Way will wrap up the public portion of our 2013 Community Care Campaign. Over the past several weeks, volunteers, business and community leaders from throughout Niagara County have been working tirelessly to spread United Way’s message of service and community and to encourage those in our community to support this important local effort, in which the money raised supports our friends and neighbors in need right here in Niagara County.

The Community Care Campaign is uniquely ours. Its mission is to make Niagara County a stronger community. Earlier this year, after months of hard work and research, United Way of Greater Niagara sharpened our focus for how the Community Care Campaign can effect the most positive change in our community. We asked ourselves how we could be the best possible stewards for the people of Niagara County at a time when the needs of the county are greater and the challenges facing our neighbors rapidly changing.

The answer lies in the areas of greatest need facing our community: education, income and health. We believe that focusing on specific gains in these areas will provide the strength and infrastructure Niagara County needs in order to advance. Did you know that the childhood poverty rate in Niagara County is near 20 percent? Or that more than two of every 1,000 children in our county are admitted to foster care? Our teenage pregnancy rates are among the highest in New York state. Over a three-year period, nearly 400 girls in Niagara County between the ages of 10-19 became pregnant. Niagara County also ranks 59th out of the 62 counties in New York state in terms of overall health, according to a study based on obesity, smoking, proximity to doctors, family support and high school graduation rates.

These challenges are real and need to be addressed. Thankfully, United Way of Greater Niagara has partnered with several organizations from across the county who continue to dedicate themselves to helping those in need. Through the Community Care Campaign, we will be supporting 44 programs provided by a total of 24 partner organizations. These partners will receive a three-year funding commitment and be required to show demonstrable results in their area of service.

Changing the tides of the challenges facing Niagara County will take time. The answers and solutions our community need are not immediately at hand, but we can take the all-important first step today. Over the next two weeks, you can help us clear our path toward a better tomorrow.

Jerald Wolfgang is chairman of the United Way of Greater Niagara board of directors.