United Way sets $900,000 goal: Economy still taking a toll

The United Way of Milford announced its campaign goal of $900,000 for 2014 when agency representatives gathered for a campaign kickoff Wednesday night. The goal is down from the $1 million it had set in past years.

The economy has kept the campaign goal at $900,000 for at least the past two years, and with the economy, even that is a “stretch goal,” according to Diane Candido, who is chairing the 2014 campaign with her husband Tony.

In 2013, the agency raised 95% of its $900,000 goal, meaning that some of the 22 agencies the United Way funds had to see their United Way dollars trimmed.

Toni Dolan, director of the Beth El Homeless Shelter, said her agency gets about $20,000 from the United Way. While they braced for bigger cuts in 2013, the allocation was cut only slightly, Dolan said.

“We thought we’d experience a larger cut, but they held us to the same amount they’d given us the year before,” said Dolan, who attended Wednesday night’s campaign kickoff event at Subway headquarters with a host of other city officials, business owners and residents.

The homeless shelter has a budget of about $700,000 a year, and gets that money from city and state grants, the United Way dollars, local churches and other sources.

But “it’s harder and harder,” Dolan said. In a tough economy, there are more non-profits going after the same funding and they all face reductions while the need for their services increases.

Some agencies experienced larger cuts in 2013, according to United Way Executive Director Gary Johnson, who explained that distributions had to be prioritized.

Candido said there are enthusiastic volunteers helping to raise this year’s funds, and she’s hopeful for that 100% collection. Still, she understands that $900,000 might be difficult with today’s economy.

Johnson said he hopes an Oct. 17 tribute concert to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons at the Parsons Complex helps the agency get closer to its goal this year. The concert is planned as a United Way fund-raiser.

Subway Founder Fred DeLuca was at the campaign kickoff, which was emceed by WPLR’s Chaz and AJ.

Recalling that DeLuca started the Subway company in 1965 with only $1,000, Michelle DiNello, Subway’s corporate communications director, handed Johnson a $1,000 check to help get the 2014 United Way campaign started.

All the money raised for the Milford United Way stays in Milford and goes to agencies like the Red Cross, Boys and Girls Club, Boy Scouts, the YMCA, Literacy Center, the Milford Senior Center and more, speakers explained Wednesday night.

In addition, last year the United Way assisted 96 families with emergency funds, helping them pay for rent, heating oil, “everyday life” expenses, said Diane Candido.

That doesn’t count the more than 200 families who were victims of storms Irene and Sandy and have received United Way dollars, she added.

For information about the agencies supported by the United Way, or to donate to this year’s campaign, go to unitedwayofmilford.org.