United Way gets pair of donations totaling $176K

  • The late Hale and Lorraine Johnson. Hale Johnson, who died in April at the age of 84, left a bequest of $76,000 to the United Way of the Franklin and Hampshire Region. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • John Bidwell FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/17/2022 10:32:36 AM
Modified: 6/17/2022 10:32:26 AM

United Way of the Franklin and Hampshire Region recently received two large donations totaling $176,000, enhancing its ability to provide financial support to social service agencies across the two counties.

A donation of $100,000 came from an anonymous donor from Franklin County. The other donation was a bequest of $76,000 arranged by the late artist and painter Allen Hale Johnson of Colrain, who died in April at the age of 84.

“Every year we give out close to $1 million dollars in grants,” said John Bidwell, leadership transition consultant for United Way of the Franklin and Hampshire Region. “This goes a long way to ensure we can give out that money.”

United Way raises money for dozens of partners in a local network of social service agencies. The organization uses a community-driven process to identify the greatest needs in the region to decide which agencies are best positioned to address those needs, and then it allocates resources accordingly through grants.

Children, youth and their families, economic security, and health and safety are among areas it has focused on in grant cycles. United Way also runs a diaper bank.

United Way stresses that although it is extremely helpful to receive big donations, the organization encourages donations of all sizes.

“They add up to make a big difference,” Bidwell added.

Bidwell noted these gifts mark the first time United Way has received donations of this size back to back.

“We are thrilled with these incredibly generous donations and the fact that they come so closely together is also meaningful,” Donor Relations Manager Holly Martineau said in a statement. “Gifts of this magnitude allow United Way to reach more people and transform more lives. All gifts, in all amounts, help us support people living without ample means, and gifts of this magnitude give us even more power for change. The power of these two gifts alone will impact many for years to come.”

Johnson, who arranged the bequest of $76,000, had a long history of philanthropy. Friend Brad Brigham speculated that Johnson decided to contribute to United Way because he was interested in helping the largest number of people through one donation.

Johnson had donated $500,000 to the Greenfield Public Library in memory of his wife, Lorraine, who died in 2016. Additionally, “Johnson often found people in the paper who were down and out, and would anonymously send them checks of $500 or $1,000,” Brigham said.

Johnson had a fruitful life in Colrain as a painter. His paintings depict landscapes across New England. His first paintings were displayed locally, but his career eventually grew far beyond the bounds of Franklin County.

“Johnson just wanted to help people and organizations in the area,” Brigham said.

For more information about United Way of the Franklin and Hampshire Region, visit uw-fh.org.

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