WATERTOWN — Surrounded by twinkling holiday lights and decorations at Spokes Craft Beer & Tapas on Monday evening, the Northern New York Community Foundation’s LEAD Council gathered for the announcement of the results of the first LEAD Fantasy Philanthropy Challenge.
Established in 2014 as an advisory committee of the Northern New York Community Foundation, the LEAD Council identifies and addresses strategic needs across Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. LEAD, which stands for Leadership, Engagement, Access and Direction, consists of 22 young professionals who live and work in the tri-county area.
“All in all, I’m really impressed with the way you guys promoted the challenge, the way you encouraged those within your network to give,” said Max DelSignore, assistant director of the Northern New York Community Foundation. “I think it raised the profile of LEAD tremendously over the last two months, and it’s all because of your hard work and your willingness to help those who need it most, so I appreciate your efforts and everyone in the Community Foundation does, too.”
Earlier this fall, the LEAD Council launched the inaugural challenge as a charitable competition among council members to collect community donations for the following efforts:
— Professional clothing to establish an “Interview Closet” for graduates of the ‘“Getting Ahead” initiative to help residents who are living in poverty generate more stable lives for themselves and their families. The initiative is led by the Community Action Planning Council and the Watertown Urban Mission
— Professional clothing and attire to stock the “Cannon Threads” closet for students in need at Jefferson Community College
— Hygiene products and nonperishable food pantry items, which will be donated to community pantries across Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties
“I can say with confidence as we stand here, give or take, 5,000 individual items are going to go across the three counties over the next couple months, which is really incredible, so you should have a round of applause for yourselves for that,” Mr. DelSignore said.
By last Friday, four teams of LEAD Council members had collected more than 3,000 items of professional clothing for the Interview Closet and Cannon Threads initiatives and more than 2,000 hygiene products and nonperishable food items to benefit community pantries. The teams received points for each item they collected in support of the efforts.
The winning team was announced Monday night at the event. It was the “Goodwill Gangsters” with a total of 6,591 points. The team consisted of Bridget Fetterly of Carthage Savings and Loan, Jennifer Voss from the Department of Planning for the city of Watertown, Aaron Naklick of Samaritan Medical Center, Eli Anderson of Samaritan Medical Center, and Kerry Kennett of South Jefferson Central School, who recently had a baby and could not attend the event.
As a reward for finishing on top, the team was given the opportunity to award a $500 grant to the nonprofit organization of its choice. The team awarded the money to the Thompson Park Zoo and Conservancy. Lawrence Sorel, executive director/CEO for the zoo and Mark Irwin, chairman of the board of directors, accepted the large check presented to them.
“The one thing that I think is really important to take away from this is just the civic-mindedness, the spirit of community that all of you guys have here in the room,” Mr. DelSignore said. “It’s why I think as a Community Foundation we’re really proud to have you as part of our LEAD Council and I think you should be really proud of what this LEAD Fantasy Philanthropy Challenge has generated.”