United Way Helps the Homeless and Much More

STURBRIDGE – The United Way of Southbridge, Sturbridge and Charlton (UWSSC) annual campaign is underway and held its 2018 Campaign Update Luncheon on Thursday, December 13th at the Publick House Inn & Restaurant.  Over 70 guests comprised of corporate partners, member agencies and volunteers attended to learn the status of this year’s campaign, hear from guest speaker, Pedro Aponte, Assistant Director of St. Luke’s Guest House and provided donated household goods and items for the guest house.

Mr. Aponte spoke about the lack of shelters for the homeless and those in need in the Tri-Community.  St. Luke’s Guest House is the only shelter for families and individuals in South Worcester County.  It was established when the Southbridge Interfaith Hospitality Network stopped offering beds at local church’s.  Dr. John Howland stepped in and started the shelter on his own.  After several years of financing it himself it became a non-profit organization in its own right.  Mr. Aponte stated that the “homeless in our area do not present themselves the same as in other parts of the state or country.  The individuals and families that find themselves without a home, couch surf, stay with family members until they are unable to stay, live in their cars or in the woods.  Some may have jobs, but due to circumstances beyond their control, whether due to domestic issues, mental health, substance abuse or income issues, have found themselves without shelter.  A place to call home.  A safe space.  St. Luke’s steps in where others can’t.  Providing a bed for men, women and children for up to 30 days.”  A guest advocate is available to help with benefit administration, transitional housing, health information and giving guidance for many different issues that arise when someone is homeless. St. Luke’s one request is that all guests are drug and alcohol free while staying as a guest.  It is for the safety of everyone in the house.  Mr. Aponte stated ‘That it costs $35 a day to provide a safe space for the guests”.  The funding they receive from the United Way is the largest amount given during the year and goes to help support the guest house and is very much appreciated”.

After Mr. Aponte spoke, April Parzych, United Way 2018 Campaign Chairman gave a report stating the reason she’s proud to be both the campaign chair and a board member of the United Way is that “we are able to support a worthy organization such as St. Luke’s in our area.  They address the needs of the homeless and therefor meet one of the pillars of the United Way of financial stability.  The homeless in Southbridge, Sturbridge and Charlton need a hand up, get help with benefits administration and have a safe, comfortable place to stay as they get their lives back on track.”

She went on to say the campaign is going strong with both residential and corporate support.   A few workplace campaigns have ended and between three companies, over $138,000 was raised from employee pledges and corporate gifts    Karl Storz Endovision completed their campaign with a total amount of $60,000. Which was an increase from last year.  Cornerstone Bank hasn’t officially ended their campaign but informed UWSSC of their total as of now to be over $45,000.  An increase over last year.  Incom Inc., had a fantastic campaign coming in at $34,000.  A $4,000 increase from last year.  All of this is very promising.

Ms. Parzych stated “As campaigns at companies close and are reported back to the United Way office, it is our hope that we will not only meet but exceed our goal of $300,000.   It only happens with the leadership and the workplace managers supporting the effort and past donors make their gift this year.  The United Way makes an impact in the community by supporting the programs that make a difference. That all the funds raised here stay here.  To support health; whether physical or mental health. Education; by providing access to affordable pre-school and childcare, literacy programs and job training.  Financial stability;  helping our most vulnerable members of the community with shelter, food, clothing, housing assistance and benefit administration and tax filings.  All these programs, plus more, wouldn’t happen without the support and generosity of those that live and work in the towns of Southbridge, Sturbridge and Charlton. “

After the campaign update was given, Executive Director Mary O’Coin spoke briefly regarding a new report that was published by Forbes Magazine that listed the United Way as the number charity in the United States.  Once again validating the need for UWSSC in our area to raise the funds required to support the programs that assist those who are the most vulnerable.

To learn more about the United Way of Southbridge, Sturbridge and Charlton or to donate go to their website at www.unitedwayssc.org or visit UnitedWaySSC on Facebook.  To contact the United Way, please email unitedwayssc@verizon..net, call (508) 765-5491.



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