United Way campaign short of goal this year, but still hoping

With collections missing the goal in this year’s United Way campaign, there’s a chance fewer senior citizens will be taken care of in the Ahrens Program at the Senior Center: The program cares for frail seniors.

There’s also a chance waiting lists at Bridges, the local mental health agency, may get longer; and there may be fewer scholarships available through Kids Count to help residents send their children to preschool if they can’t afford the tuition.

These are all agencies that get some of their funding through the United Way of Milford. There are 22 altogether, agencies like the Beth El Center that cares for the homeless, the Literacy Center of Milford, and the Boys and Girls Club.

The local agencies are already prepared for a cut in their funds from the United Way of Milford. President/CEO Gary Johnson sent them an email about two weeks ago giving them the heads-up that the campaign this year might not make its goal.

The campaign goal this year was $900,000, and with the campaign ending March 31 and collections only 87% there, Johnson doesn’t think goal will be met.

The agency is making a final push to get closer to the $900,000.

“At this point it appears that we will fall short of our $900,000 goal,” Johnson said. “Currently we are at $784,000 which is 87% of the goal. We have about two weeks left to the campaign.”

The agency recently compiled a needs assessment, and so United Way officials know where the greatest needs for funding are in Milford: Affordable child care, affordable housing, affordable health care and basic needs, like energy assistance, diapers and rental assistance.

“Our emergency fund which helps meet some of these basic needs has really been tapped,” Johnson said. “As far as challenges in terms of fundraising, reaching those businesses and individuals who have not contributed before is a challenge due to the economy and the financial stresses being placed on the middle class especially. Companies moving and downsizing as well as asking their employees to pay more of their medical benefits are challenges as well.”

During a campaign kickoff earlier this year, residents gave personal accounts of how the United Way had helped them.

James Beckett, for example, was homeless. He spent 90 days living at the Beth-El Shelter in Milford. Today, he is a case manager and house manager at New Haven's Believe in Me Empowerment Corporation.

“Homelessness has no face, no color, no income bracket,” he said. “It can happen to any of us. Many of us think we already have a plan. I was able to turn to the Beth El Center.”

In 2013, the United Way gave $19,000 to the Beth El Shelter.

The Jamieson family of Milford also spoke at the campaign kickoff event. They got help after Hurricane Irene and Sandy.

“Financial support from the United Way's Emergency Fund helped us pay two months of our rent and utility bills,” said Debbie Jamieson. The Jamiesons have four teenage children, and they lost photos, clothes, a hot water heater, washer, dryer and furnace in the storms.

“This support enabled us to get back on our feet and also celebrate the holiday with our family,” Debbie added.

Julie Myers, a youngster who attends the Boys & Girls Club in Milford, spoke too. She talked about the leadership training and other programs she finds at the Boys & Girls Club. In 2013, the United Way gave $17,000 to the club.

Johnson said several years ago the campaign goal was $1 million, but the economy has brought that down somewhat. The $900,000 is a “stretch goal,” he said during the kickoff, but added that the agency raised that amount during last year's campaign and hoped to do it again.

“The thing is that when the economy is bad, more people need services,” Johnson said.

United Way officials will decide March 25 how much each agency will get this year. But Johnson said those numbers can be adjusted if additional funds come in.

People who want to donate to the campaign may call the United Way at 203-874-6791. For more information, go to unitedwayofmilford.org. The agency is located at 20 Evergreen Avenue, Milford.