By Susan Riley
It wasn’t that long ago that I would receive my United Way pledge card through Cornell campus mail and put it aside to “deal with later.” A few weeks might pass and while tidying up my desk, I would inevitably find the card and think, “I should really do something about this.”
Sometimes I would make a gift, other times I would not. I also wondered why my employer was repeatedly asking me to give. It felt a little distant. The United Way as an organization also seemed overly institutional, and while I gave time and money in other ways, I had trouble connecting with this effort.
What changed? A combination of things. The recession happened and I watched people I knew struggling with day-to-day expenses. Good jobs and opportunities for others wanting to change careers became more limited. I also had some personal experiences that made me more open to give more than in the past, and I learned more about the United Way of Tompkins County.
In December 2015, I was appointed by Cornell President Elizabeth Garrett to serve as the first Coordination Director for the Cornell United Way campaign. (More information about Cornell’s campaign can be found at unitedway.cornell.edu.) This provided me the opportunity to work closely with other staff who have contributed their time and efforts to help promote the campaign with their colleagues. It was a new component added to my regular duties, but has proven to be both rewarding and fun.
Like many local employers, Cornell offers convenient payroll deduction for United Way, and we have enhanced our online process to make giving easier than ever. Yet the biggest reason I give now and will going forward, is that I’ve had more opportunity to see the impact United Way has in our shared communities.
Earlier this month at a United Way campaign meeting, I was introduced to Sandra Rosado. An injury left her without work at age 55, and her lack of computer skills hindered her ability to find work when she started to look for a job.
Eventually, she found her way to the Women’s Opportunity Center in downtown Ithaca, whose purpose is to assist displaced workers enter or re-enter the workforce with employment and training programs.
Sandra was able to rebuild her confidence thanks to the staff, workshops and other services. She said she just needed a little boost to get back on her feet, and was treated with respect and dignity at the Center.
The Women’s Opportunity Center is just one of the many local organizations that receives funding from United Way, while helping our friends and neighbors in need. Knowing that 100 percent of the money I give to the United Way can help someone like Sandra, is why I give.
There are many ways each of us can lend a hand for United Way, be it financially, through volunteering, or participating in an event.
For instance, on Friday, February 10, Cornell United Way will hold its Second Big Red One Day On-line Auction for United Way. (For more information, visit events.cornell.edu/event/the_big_red_one-day_online_auction_for_the_united_way_6582.) This event has great items, is lots of fun, and all proceeds go to the Tompkins County United Way, and to helping people like Sandra Rosado.
We hope you can give to United Way when and where possible. It’s a solid, steady resource in a time of uncertainty, and an essential community pillar, now more than ever.
Cornell is proud to be a United Way partner.
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Susan Riley is deputy director of community relations at Cornell University. East Hill Notes are published the second and fourth Mondays of each month.