United Way launches $1.5M fundraising drive

United Way of the Franklin & Hampshire Region Executive Director Geoff Naunheim speaks at the agency’s annual fundraising celebration at Franklin County Technical School on Friday morning.

United Way of the Franklin & Hampshire Region Executive Director Geoff Naunheim speaks at the agency’s annual fundraising celebration at Franklin County Technical School on Friday morning. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jessye Deane speaks at the United Way of the Franklin & Hampshire Region’s fundraising campaign celebration at Franklin County Technical School on Friday morning.

Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jessye Deane speaks at the United Way of the Franklin & Hampshire Region’s fundraising campaign celebration at Franklin County Technical School on Friday morning. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Community Action Pioneer Valley Associate Director for Community Engagement Jessica Thompson speaks at the United Way of the Franklin & Hampshire Region’s fundraising campaign celebration at Franklin County Technical School on Friday morning.

Community Action Pioneer Valley Associate Director for Community Engagement Jessica Thompson speaks at the United Way of the Franklin & Hampshire Region’s fundraising campaign celebration at Franklin County Technical School on Friday morning. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

The Franklin County Chamber of Commerce and United Way of the Franklin & Hampshire Region held the annual fundraising celebration, as United Way set a $1.5 million fundraising goal this year.

The Franklin County Chamber of Commerce and United Way of the Franklin & Hampshire Region held the annual fundraising celebration, as United Way set a $1.5 million fundraising goal this year. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 09-22-2023 2:41 PM

TURNERS FALLS — With last year’s campaign exceeding its goal, the United Way of the Franklin & Hampshire Region has kicked off its 2023 fundraising drive and set its sights on raising $1.5 million.

Speaking at the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce’s breakfast at the Franklin County Technical School on Friday morning, United Way Executive Director Geoff Naunheim said the big focus during this year’s campaign is raising money to fund programs assisting people with mental health challenges, with an emphasis on youth mental health. He said various community agencies, as well as the local health care system, have identified the continuing mental health crisis as the “No. 1” challenge facing the region.

“There’s some pretty frightening survey data from the Franklin Regional Council of Governments and Communities That Care Coalition about middle schoolers and high schoolers having intense feelings of despair and hopelessness,” Naunheim said. “This year we’re thinking a lot about how we can work with our partner agencies to reverse that trend.”

The United Way partners with 64 programs spearheaded by the various nonprofits in Franklin and Hampshire counties. Alongside mental health, the agency has also identified economic security and nurturing the community’s youth as its priority areas for 2023 and 2024.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director and United Way fundraising campaign Co-Chair Jessye Deane announced their goal of $1.5 million, which she said will “amplify” the impact of the United Way and the work it does with its partners. Prior to taking on her chamber role, Deane worked with Community Action Pioneer Valley and she said she has first-hand experience of how impactful agencies like the United Way are.

“I saw the difference United Way funding makes for local nonprofits, who are so underfunded and overworked,” Deane said. “The nonprofits that need our help the most are the ones who have their heads down, their boots on the ground. They’re doing the work and that’s where the United Way comes in. The United Way takes our donation and puts them where the needs are locally.”

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

My Turn: Biden’s record and accomplishments are extremely positive
Athol principal selected as superintendent for Erving School Union 28
CDC considers dropping 5-day COVID isolation rule as local hospitals bring back mask requirements
Former Greenfield Police Chief Haigh: ‘I am forced to say goodbye’
Wilder Homestead restoration in Buckland moves to next phase with help from glass artist
Adding up the losses at Red Fire Farm: $1M in damages includes barn full of supplies and memories

Joining Deane as campaign co-chair is Jennifer Ewers, who is a business development specialist with Finck & Perras Insurance.

Echoing Deane’s thoughts was Community Action’s Associate Director for Community Engagement Jessica Thompson, who said funding from the United Way can help fill the gaps in service left by state and federal funding.

“The need exceeds the resources every day and the most challenging needs are those that don’t fit neatly into boxes,” Thompson said, noting that government funding often has specific requirements for how it can be spent. “Without support from our donors, and organizations like the United Way of Franklin and Hampshire counties, we have to look into the eyes of our neighbors and say, ‘No.’

“United Way gives us a chance to say, ‘Yes,’ even to the person whose need doesn’t fit neatly within that box,” Thompson continued. “The United Way’s campaign is a critical moment for the community to support its most vulnerable members. Today, I invite you to say, ‘Yes.’ Your efforts will make a difference.”

More information about the United Way, including how to donate or set up a business donation drive, can be found on its website at uw-fh.org.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com.