Business leaders team up to issue United Way Challenge Grant. Goal is to close funding shortfall so United Way can meet community needs.

03-11-2014

ALBANY, N.Y. — Four business leaders have joined to issue a $50,000 challenge grant to help United Way of the Greater Capital Region close a projected fundraising gap that could hurt local human services that have already taken a hit from reductions in state and federal grants as well as a sluggish economy.

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, stepped up to offer $10,000 each. National Grid joined the challenge and allocated $20,000 of the company’s corporate gift to reach the $50,000 total, according to the utility’s Regional Director William Flaherty who serves on United Way’s Board of Directors.

Buicko said he knows that a lot of people are struggling today, including some individuals and families who never expected they would need assistance. “This is our community and if everyone steps up to contribute and do their part, we can raise a significant amount of dollars to support the vital human services that make our community a great place to live, work and grow a business,” he said.

United Way of the Greater Capital Region President and CEO Brian Hassett praised the generosity of the business group. “Their commitment gives us the opportunity to double contributors’ dollars,” Hassett said. “We’d love to have a few more companies step up too. There are people and organizations in need who are counting on United Way as we enter the homestretch of our annual campaign.”

United Way Board Chairman Dan Sauer thanked the four business leaders for coming forward during a critical time. “They set an example for others to follow,” Sauer said. “We know that United Way’s capacity to fund local services has a direct connection to our region’s social and economic health. United Way’s campaign is really our community’s campaign because of the network of relationships that connect all of us.”

Hassett is projecting that United Way contributions will fall $100,000 short of this year’s goal of $4.9 million. That may not sound like a large amount but every dollar counts, Hassett said. Donations help homeless individuals and families find shelter and a path to a better life. Funds support after school programs that give young people positive role models and an alternative to the streets. And United Way contributions make sure food pantries are well-stocked to meet the needs of struggling families.

United Way currently funds 110 programs at 58 agencies across Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady and Schoharie counties. The organization estimates that 100,000 people each year benefit from a United Way-funded program.

“Our focus is on meeting basic needs and addressing priority issues in education, financial stability and health,” Hassett said. “These are the building blocks we all need for a good life and a strong regional economy. Few organizations have this breadth of impact, which means that a shortfall will definitely affect our ability to fund local programs and services.”

He added that United Way has a new emphasis on preventative strategies that tackle issues such as hunger and poverty at their roots. “United Way will always be committed to strengthening the community safety net. But at the same time, we want to connect people with opportunities for a better life. Working together with our donors and partners, we can prevent short-term obstacles from becoming more-costly and recurring crises.”

Hassett attributed the funding shortfall to the economy, which is still sluggish in some sectors, as well as to a few local companies where internal restructuring may have affected employees’ ability to give. He said that the SEFA (State Employees Federated Appeal) portion of the campaign is also down.

“I know there are people out there with capacity to help. I find that most people are generous and the main reason they do not give is because they have not been asked. The “close the gap challenge” provides us with a new opportunity to ask — with the promise that we can double the impact of every dollar.”

HOW TO HELP: Contributions can be mailed to United Way of the Greater Capital Region, One United Way, Albany, NY 12205. Donors should write “match” on their check. Donations can also be made online at www.unitedwaygcr.org.

United Way of the Greater Capital Region identifies community needs and brings people, resources and partner organizations together to address priorities in the areas of Basic Needs, Education, Income and Health. These are the building blocks for a good life and the cornerstones of a strong community. Learn more at www.unitedwaygcr.org.