Capital Region business leaders helping United Way bridge fundraising gap

CAPITAL REGION — Four local business leaders have stepped up to help United Way of the Greater Capital Region fill a $100,000 fundraising gap that could result in significant cuts to programs for needy community members.

Sonny Bonacio, president and owner of Bonacio Construction; David Buicko, chief operating officer of the Galesi Group; and Steve Obermayer, chief financial officer at BBL Construction Services, have each offered $10,000 in the form of matching grants. National Grid has allocated a $20,000 matching grant, according to the utility’s regional director, William Flaherty.

The corporate donors will match contributions received from the public, up to the $50,000 total they have pledged.

Often envisioned as competitors, executives from the three construction companies admitted that they do compete sometimes but also have occasion to act as allies.

“We’re competitors, we’re partners and we all really respect each other,” said Bonacio. “We all work together on a daily basis, so it’s nice to be able to help out such a great organization and it was nice to see guys in our industry step up as quickly as they did.”

Obermayer confirmed the congenial relationship the companies share.

“Dave, Sonny and Bill, it’s good to do stuff with those guys. It’s fun to be involved with things together,” he said.

Entertainment value aside, their collaboration aims to better the community.

“There is just a lot of need for these [United Way] programs and they’re vital, especially, to our inner cities. We don’t want to see them going away,” Obermayer said.

Much of United Way’s work goes on below the radar, said Brian Hassett, president and CEO of United Way of the Greater Capital Region.

“A lot of the causes that depend on us most people couldn’t name because they’re often dealing with really difficult things like domestic violence, homelessness, children at risk, poverty, so we end up representing a lot of things that make the community healthier,” he said.

If the gap in this year’s $4.9 million fundraising goal goes unfilled, Hassett said the lack of funds could have a far-reaching effect.

“We’d have to make significant cuts,” he said. “We’ve already cut our budget. I’d have to look at that again. We’ve already reduced our spending as an organization. We would have to try to find further economies.”

Hassett blamed the decrease in projected income in part on a reduction in the workforce at some large local employers and the relocation of other operations that supported the charity in the past. He said income has been relatively flat for the past two years.

His goal is to fill the fundraising gap by June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Flaherty, who has been a United Way board member for three years, said maintaining an adequate funding stream is a struggle.

“I think there’s a lot of room for improvement. There are a lot of businesses that don’t run employee campaigns. We want to get the word out and try to drum up some of that business,” he said.

Buicko urged community members to join the fundraising effort the four corporations have spearheaded, noting that the businesses will all be contacting their subcontractors and asking them to donate.

“We’re all doing large projects and there’s a lot of good things happening in the Capital Region, but if you don’t take care of the moral responsibility that you have to deal with some of the people in need, then you’re doing your company and your community a disservice,” he said.

Bonacio said his relationship with United Way goes way back.

“My mother was involved in the United Way when I was a kid and it was just one of those charities that’s been kind of around the kitchen table for our family for 40 years,” he said. “So it was an honor that Brian gave us a shout.”

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