The United Way celebrates 80 years

Local chapter put $288,700 in community chest for 2017

By Ryan Servant
Citizen Chronicle Writer

SOUTHBRIDGE — For generations, countless locals have benefitted from through the good deeds of the United Way and its supporters.

Local donors, businesses, and politicians gathered Monday evening at the Cohasse Country Club for an awards dinner and 80th anniversary celebration of the United Way of Southbridge, Sturbridge, and Charlton. The event had twice been rescheduled due to nor’easters.

Mary O’Coin, Executive Director of United Way of Southbridge, Sturbridge, and Charlton, speaks at Monday evenings awards dinner.

The local chapter of the United Way was founded in 1937, originally known as the Community Chest. Throughout its first 80 years, the United Way has changed its name a few times but always kept its focus on the local area. Since its founding, the local United Way has raised more than $15 million “to help youth, health and human service agencies in our tri-community.”

Monday night’s celebration was kicked off by Mary O’Coin, Executive Director of United Way of Southbridge, Sturbridge, and Charlton. She set the agenda for the evening as well as introduced the local politicians to speak and award the United Way with recognition and a set of resolutions acknowledging the hard work and dedication of the local chapter of the international organization. The United Way has 1,800 local chapters spread across 40 countries and territories worldwide with 61 million people served annually and 2.9 million volunteers working to improve their communities. Locally, there are 18 members of the Board of Directors, all of whom live or work in the tri-community.

State Rep. Todd Smola addresses United Way supporters as colleagues look on.

State Representative Todd Smola (R-Palmer) expressed his pleasure in attending the event, and touted his desire to see even more anniversaries and milestones of the group.

“I promise that we will be back for the 90th and 100th to celebrate even more,” Mr. Smola remarked.

State Senator Anne M. Gobi (D-Spencer) touted the organization’s ever present role in helping locals in need.

“With the needs of a community, you have to be there in the good and bad and be a constant presence, and that’s what the United Way has done here in our area,” Ms. Gobi said.

In order to be that constant presence, the United Way challenges its supporters to help raise more money each year. The goal for 2017 was to raise $292,000, for a 10 percent increase over 2016’s fundraising totals. Ultimately, they came just shy of that goal but raised an impressive $288,700 last year.

Bruce Watkins, General Manager of Karl Storz, provided the event’s keynote address, highlighting the reasons he is a supporter of the philanthropic agency. “The United Way’s mission is to focus on education, income, and health of the global community,” he said. “What do I like about the United Way? Nearly 86 percent of the funds collected in these campaigns find their way back into the community with only 14 percent going to overhead and administration.”

Awards were given to many local business based not only on the amount of money they raised and donated, but also the percentage of employees who volunteered time to The United Way’s various programs. Some of the volunteer opportunities include reading to children, helping in the community, and the annual United Way Day of Action. Local partners of the United Way include the American Red Cross, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Massachusetts, The Bridge of Central Massachusetts, CASA Project, Catholic Charities, Community Legal Aid, Family Health Center of Worcester, Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts, Literacy Volunteers of the Tri-Community, Mohegan Council of the Boy Scouts of America, New Hope, Old Sturbridge Village, Pathways For Change, St. Luke’s Guesthouse, Tri-Community YMCA, Tri-Valley Inc., and the Worcester Community Action Council.

If you would like to volunteer or contribute to the United Way of Southbridge, Sturbridge, and Charlton, visit


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