The following column is written by our President & CEO Virginia L. Mason.
United Way of Southeastern Connecticut is contributing $25,000 to the American Red Cross, Connecticut Chapter, due to the increased strain and demand the organization is facing because of major hurricane events, fires in western states, and earthquakes in Mexico. The Red Cross is the well-known first-responder for meeting immediate emergency and disaster relief needs – especially in the wake of these kinds of events at home and abroad. United Way currently funds the Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services and Disaster Services Programs on an ongoing basis. United Way in New London County is proud to send additional funds to Disaster Relief, knowing that there are many residents of this county, who have immediate family members and dear friends who are struggling in heavily affected areas – the aftermath of unexpected hurricane destruction from which it will take years to recover. All areas affected are still in relief and response mode. United Way is receiving a daily update from the Red Cross re: disaster relief.
Just yesterday, Virginia Mason, President and CEO of the United Way, talked with a young woman from Groton, CT, whose “eyes filled with tears when she explained that she could not connect with her beloved Grandmother in Puerto Rico and was very worried about her.” Patricia Scharr, Philanthropy Officer with the Red Cross in CT described the work that is going on in Texas, Florida, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico to help the many people who are so significantly impacted – many of whom are without electricity and communications or able to leave their homes. “There is simply no electric power in Puerto Rico.” Mario Bruno, CEO of the Connecticut Red Cross left for Puerto Rico early on September 28, 2017, with a shipment of enough blood products for 1500 people.
Red Cross staff told United Way that the greatest challenge now is mobilizing and training new volunteers to be deployed to so many different places. Pat Scharr noted the generosity of so many who work for the short term and long-term relief of human suffering. She notes that current conditions in multiple disasters are hard to handle, but that willing volunteers and organizations will always work tirelessly where they are needed. She described to United Way staff members her appreciation for those volunteers who travel to challenging locations, return home, and then quickly return to help because they are needed. The United Way of Southeastern Connecticut notes the efforts of Connecticut Red Cross staff to train and deploy volunteers and to maintain critical readiness to serve.
The United Way network of local, autonomous organizations, comes together and invests collectively in the immediate relief needs of those who are suffering. Recovery is long term and those wishing to contribute to United Way International’s fund for hurricane relief may do so at https://www.unitedway.org/recovery/hurricane-recovery-fund. 100% of fund donations will go to the local United Ways which are in the impacted areas: Texas, Florida, the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico -- to help individuals recover in both the short and long-term rebuilding efforts. United Way’s website will have updated information going forward on the hurricane recovery fund. United Way of Southeastern Connecticut helped with the distribution and control of funds raised for Hurricane Sandy and noted that 100% of donations are going to the effort now, as was the case during the aftermath of Sandy.
As part of a national network of 2-1-1’s, Connecticut 2-1-1 is virtually handling calls from people in Texas seeking help with recovery as well as assuming the role of lead resource coordinator for those who have been displaced or suffered a loss from Hurricane Irma. At the request of United Way Worldwide, Connecticut’s United Way 2-1-1 created a website for out of state 2-1-1’s who are answering calls from Hurricane Irma victims in Florida and surrounding states. United Way of Southeastern Connecticut provides funding annually to Connecticut 2-1-1, made possible by generous donations, the 15 United Ways across Connecticut, and an allocation from a state. More challenges will emerge for 2-1-1.
United Way of Southeastern Connecticut serves a portfolio of 47 programs carried by 21 agencies here at home. The organization also supports 2-1-1, Project Warm-up, Youth Grant Recipients, IDA program, and the Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center.
United Way, Board Chair, Brian Orenstein, thanks all who are giving generously, “Thanks to the generosity of loyal donors in Southeastern Connecticut who entrust us with their contributions, we are able to invest dollars where they’re needed most. Right now, where they are needed most is with Red Cross. We thank our caring community for giving us the ability to make this additional gift to the Red Cross so they can meet needs now. Virginia L. Mason, our President and CEO and I thank the United Way Board of Directors for instructing us to give funds now where they are needed the most -- for immediate relief.”