By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO November 16, 2004 Over $65,000 was raised in one night at the 20th anniversary of the United Way of Sullivan County, held Sunday at the Dodge Inn.
The money will go towards the 2004-2005 United Way campaign in the county. The Sullivan County chapter was founded in 1984 after breaking away from the larger tri-state umbrella.
Several members of the board throughout the night noted how the Sullivan County chapter was able to keep the money it raised in the county due to its independence.
Carl and Pat Allison were named the new campaign chairs after Dr. Don Simkin and Ellen Singer completed their successful two-year stints as campaign chairs. And a moment of silence was held for Bob Rosen, a former two-time co-campaign chair.
The United Way is well known for its holiday food drives. The organization is currently in the midst of preparing for the Thanksgiving food drive. The group donates money to other organizations such as Hospice, Friends and Advocates for Mental Health, as well as the Meals on Wheels program of the Office for the Aging, according to Executive Director Linda Cellini.
Cellini said her organization was successful in forming agreements with several big businesses like Wal-Mart and Kohls Warehouse, where employees can volunteer deductions from their paychecks to be transferred to the United Way. Wal-Mart will match 100 percent of whatever their employees pay. Kohls Warehouse will be matching a portion of what their employees pay.
One of the initiatives begun by the United Way was the Sullivan County Federation for the Homeless. The federation holds a soup kitchen at the former Foothills Community Center in Monticello, and Sullivan County Legislator Sam Wohl, who was at Sunday evenings dinner, is among those who have helped contribute food to the kitchen, as well as turkeys for the United Ways Thanksgiving Food Drive.
Another ongoing program with the United Way is its funding for cancer patients who have trouble paying medical bills through the Bryan Ahearn Childrens Fund. Cellini estimated that the group has made donations to 10 county families, including a recent check of $2,000.
Pat Allison said she was honored to be named co-campaign chair along with her husband. She mentioned the Salvation Army and the Literacy Volunteers of America as two organizations she was proud to assist as a member of the United Way.
Allison has been a board member for two years. She believed that people would be surprised at how many people look to the United Way for assistance with food, furniture and clothing.
Former Town of Thompson Supervisor David Kaufman was a member of the United Way before it was incorporated locally. He was a former United Way board member and currently sits on its budget and allocation committee.
He said the United Way serves a special purpose in that it gives funds to groups that do important work.
Among the organizations he named are the American Red Cross, the Child Care Council of Sullivan County and soil preservation programs taught in local schools.
Town of Forestburgh Councilman Eugene Raponi said that one of the positives of the group was the way in which most of the money was returned to the community, rather than for administrative pay, like other organizations, he said.
Several of those in the audience remarked on how hard their group worked. As Simkin put it, the board is not just a rubber stamp. She said it was a particular privilege to work with Cellini.
All of the food at the celebration was donated by United Way members, said Margaret Hazen, who sits on the board of directors.