Ray Stanley has been volunteering with United Way for 20 years. He spoke to us about the allocations process and how he dedicates his time to serving the community.
Hi! Tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been involved with United Way?
My name is Ray Stanley, and I’ve been involved with United Way of Southeastern Connecticut for 20 years.
How did you first get involved here at United Way of Southeastern Connecticut?
Well, my wife and I thought we could retire back about 20 years ago, and I got a letter in the mail actually, asking me if I wanted to volunteer. A buddy of mine at work had been volunteering at United Way for years, so I decided to give it a try.
I was in allocations, in fact I still am. That’s the part of United Way that donates the money, allocates the money to the partner agencies. I started out as a panel member, we have panels that visit the agencies, review their programs, review their financial status, the efficiency in how they manage the programs, and I went from there- first year, second year, third year I became a co-chair, vice chair, year after that chairman of the panel, then we went to co-chairs about 5 years after that, so I’d been doing allocations, visiting the agencies and so forth for about 15 years.
Why do you give back to your community?
Well, I guess it’s Christian upbringing. Fortunately I’ve never needed the services of United Way or any of the partner agencies, but it’s a way to do the good thing.
What made you want to serve on the Board of Directors?
Well, I’d been volunteering for 15 years and I got a phone call right around Christmastime five years ago asking me if I’d like to volunteer and I just thought that was a tremendous thing and I really wanted to do it.
What kind of work do you do on the Board of Directors?
I co-chair the community investment committee with my partner Denise Stapienski, and basically we along with the vice president of programs here at United Way and the director of programs oversee the allocations process. This involves training about 50 volunteers every three years to review the programs and go out and visit the sites and come to a consensus about how to divvy up the money.
So we represent that process to the board of directors and the final allocation amounts are determined by the panels. We bring that to the board of directors to get their approval so that the money can be distributed along about June.
Are there any particular moments from your experience at United Way that have really stayed with you?
Well, actually my first site visit-and there’s another story that goes with this- but we had a training program that lasted about an hour and then we were set free to go through this process of trying to decide how to allocate money. It was brand new to me; I’d never been to an agency, didn’t even know they existed, didn’t know about the tremendous amount of support there is in the community for people in need.
I remember going on my first site visit, I think it was in January at night, it was Catholic Charities, this was the old catholic charities on main street in Norwich, and I remember going there and not having have a clue what I was supposed to be doing and listening to all these words and panicking about how I’m gonna fill out this evaluation sheet, and that really lasted for about the whole season. It really back then took one or two years to become a volunteer that really know what you were doing. And the other part of the story is that that is such a change as to how that’s managed today; we have training sessions for each one of the individual panels, we really get to know each other, Annie and Dina go through the whole process of what they can expect, and to conduct themselves, and what’s expected of them, so that when they get into the field and start going to the agencies they really have a good understanding of what the whole process is. So I give them a lot of credit for making that happen.
What’s your favorite thing about serving on the Board or being involved with United Way in general?
My favorite part is being involved in the total effort here. I’m very proud to be able to work with a bunch of really dedicated and professional people who work very hard to support the community and to me it’s a real honor to sit on the same board with leaders in the community and be part of that process.
What would you say to someone who might be considering volunteering?
I’d say do it. You won’t be disappointed.
What does ‘Live United’ mean to you?
Again, it’s being part of a united process to help people in need, and a way to give back, and I guess that’s it!