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United Way of Hampshire County sets $1.3 million goal



@cmlindahl
Wednesday, September 21, 2016

NORTHAMPTON – The United Way of Hampshire County on Tuesday launched its 2017 annual fundraising campaign with a goal of raising $1.3 million for social service programs.

The United Way provides grants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 each year for some 35 programs and agencies in Hampshire County. Grant recipients include meals on wheels programs, programs that focus on domestic violence prevention, homeless shelters and food pantries, according to Executive Director James Ayres.

Those grants benefit about 25,000 people in Hampshire County annually, Ayres said, which amounts to one of every six residents.

This year’s goal is a slight increase from the $1.27 million raised last year. About $500,000 of that came from individuals who donate between $1 and $4 from each paycheck through a United Way giving program provided by their employers, Ayres said.

“In a lot of the workplaces that run campaigns, the company will match individual employees’ donations,” he said. “That doubles the impact of their gift and doubles the impact in our communities.”

Others donate through a mail pledge card or on the United Way website. In total, between 3,500 to 4,000 people donate to the organization in any given year, he said.

Under 18 percent of the money raised last year went toward administrative expenses, according to Ayres.

Among the largest grant recipients are the survival centers in Amherst and Northampton, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Safe Passage, he said.

New for this year is a program where employers can allow their employees to be released on work time and volunteer at one of the programs benefiting from the United Way. 

“We find that it’s a really rewarding experience for the individuals, it’s a nice team-building for the company and it provides great support for the organizations where they’re volunteering,” Ayres said.

Chris Lindahl can be reached at clindahl@gazettenet.com.