New generation, new energy as United Way kicks off campaign

  • The United Way of Franklin County kicked off its annual fundraising campaign at Magpie Woodfired Pizza in Greenfield Tuesday evening. Staff Photo/Joshua Solomon—

  • The United Way of Franklin County kicked off its annual fundraising campaign at Magpie Woodfired Pizza in Greenfield, Tuesday evening. Staff Photo/Joshua Solomon

Staff Writer
Published: 8/28/2018 11:07:30 PM

GREENFIELD — Standing among dozens of Franklin County professionals at Magpie, it was the former longtime leader of the United Way seeing the vision she had once plotted start to come to fruition.

Sandy Sayers, who retired as director of the service non-profit in June, watched new campaign co-chairwomen Liz Fisk and Amanda Abramson-Clarke announce the United Way’s fundraising goal of $750,000 to a mixed group of who’s who professionals at the woodfired pizzeria on Bank Row.

It was community fixtures like Sayers, Bill Benson, John Merrigan, but it was also the burgeoning group out of the Franklin County Young Professionals that Fisk and Abramson-Clarke help lead.

“That’s where we’ve been needing to go,” Sayers said, “and that’s where we were trying to head all along.”

The campaign will now be steered by Fisk, who works for WHAI & Bear Country and is the vice chairwoman of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, and Abramson-Clarke, who works for Cohn & Company and whose mother was a former campaign co-chair.

The co-chairs introduced their slogan, “Fight for Franklin County,” encouraging people to use a hashtag when posting photos to social media.

“In this economic and political climate, you have to fight for what’s right,” Abramson-Clarke said to the crowd. “So in Franklin County you have to fight for what’s right.”

Fisk and Abramson emphasized the campaign’s desire this year to spell out to people exactly how their money will be used and what organizations it will go to in the area. The Hilltown Youth Theater group, whose Recovery Theater programming provides a creative outlet for children overcoming various forms of trauma, depression and behavioral health struggles, presented what it does.

“That’s our goal,” Fisk said, “to really frame for this community how important and vital the United Way is.”

For Timberly Grout, this year’s chairwoman of the United Way’s board, the campaign this year is a strong signal to the community.

“We have a lot of new energy and new ideas,” Grout said. “It’s going to get us to the next level of where we want to be.”

She hopes having two younger campaign chairs will mean the United Way will be able to fundraise and connect in the long run with the growing young professional crowd in Franklin County.

“It’s all about the next generation and making sure it continues for years to come,” Director of North Quabbin Citizen Advocacy Nate Johnson said.

His association is a partner agency with the United Way and acts as advocates for people with mental disorders. The advocacy group works to develop and support relationships for people who will benefit from guidance or companionship, bridging the world between people with and without disabilities.

Johnson is also a member of the Franklin County Young Professionals group, which was largely present at the kickoff at Magpie.

Former board member and current leader of the campaign Dan Kunhardt said the energy and enthusiasm from the new chairwomen will help to continue passing the torch in keeping the United Way vibrant in town.

“It’s not your parents’ United Way anymore,” Kunhardt said. “It has to change. So we’re working really hard at that.”

Perhaps this was most apparent to state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, who was present for the kickoff, too.

“I was obviously excited this year because the two co-chairs this year represent the future of the county,” Mark said.

“As someone under 40 myself, I think it’s important for younger people to get involved.”

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

413-772-0261, ext. 264

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