WATERTOWN — This year, the United Way of Northern New York marks its 100th year of serving the area.
During the organization’s annual meeting Monday, vacant positions were filled and the report for 2020 was given, detailing some accomplishments amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Before the presentation of the annual report for 2020, four positions within the organization were filled, with Daniel Sweeney filling the role of vice chair for St. Lawrence County, Kristen Aucter as vice chair for Lewis County, Jan Mosher as treasurer and the secretary role being filled again by Cathy Brodeur.
“We found ourselves in an environment where we had to embrace agility, rapid change and innovation,” the report reads in reference to 2020. “We also witnessed some of the finest moments in humanity through the actions of our medical professionals, first responders and essential workers, such as the grocery store cashier, long-haul truck driver, and human service nonprofit employee.”
In 2020, as highlighted in the report, 2,301,054 life-critical items were distributed to families throughout northern New York during the pandemic. Products included toilet paper, household cleaners, baby diapers and wipes, paper towels, surgical masks, rubber gloves and hand sanitizer.
Thirty-two towns, villages and school districts in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties received supplies through the UWNNY distribution center, and 41 Northern New York nonprofits received $412,116 in grant funding. 2020 grant recipients included, but were not limited to, ACR Health, Watertown Urban Mission, Pivot, American Red Cross, Credo Community Center, and the Volunteer Transportation Center.
“Typically, the United Way, we’re not in the tactical level hands-on business, but we found ourselves in the midst of this crisis certainly putting our hands where our mouths and wallets are in terms of helping out the community,” said Jamie Cox, president and CEO of UWNNY. “Unique to 2020 for income, we had a significant amount of grant income — typically we’re the grant givers. In 2020, we became very large grant recipients as well, because we’re applying for funds to be able to support COVID and other additional operations.”
More than 90,000 United Way-funded or partnered family grocery distributions took place in the tri-county area and 4,416 victims of domestic violence were transported and given aid and shelter through United Way funds in 2020.
This year, as stated in the report’s 2020-2021 Community Impact Strategy, the organization plans to support food and social work programs, support families who don’t qualify for government assistance, meet the transportation needs of rural residents, support victims of domestic violence, directly support children through schools, provide quality and safe childcare, and provide quality and safe after-school programs.
“Certainly the community impact strategy is a living breathing plan,” Mr. Cox said. “We’ll adjust it as times shift into a post-COVID world, and we see what’s taking place with the economy and our different communities around the north country.”
With grant funding higher than it has been in the past, looking at total income for UWNNY compared to the past five years, they’re almost at $1.5 million and spent $1.376 million. Considering all the organization did in 2020, just 9% of funds were spent on administrative expenses, leaving the UWNNY in the black with a net income just over $70,000 from the past calendar year.
“This year is our 100-year anniversary,” Mr. Cox said. “In the past 100 years, and especially in the past year, the United Way has become a more progressive organization in that we’re more involved with the actual people who need help and we’re certainly more involved with individual communities. COVID was not a blessing for anybody, but it really allowed the United Way to step outside of our traditional role in the community and become of greater value.”