Checking in on Your Community Investments

As co-chair of this year’s United Way Campaign, I recently had the privilege of visiting three programs in Central Massachusetts that benefit from the generosity of UMass Memorial Health Care employees. During the 2013 campaign, our Worcester-based caregivers donated almost $300,000 to the United Way of Central Massachusetts. Based on my firsthand experience during these visits, I’m pleased to report that the investments the United Way has made on your behalf are paying enormous dividends for the future of our community.

Worcester Boys & Girls Club

My first visit was to Harrington Boys & Girls Clubhouse in Worcester, in one of the city’s most challenged neighborhoods. Every year, the club serves more than 6,000 children, 80% of whom live below the poverty line. Your donations help cover the cost of membership for these kids.

Guided by caring staff and volunteers, the kids use computer labs, an indoor swimming pool, game room, a dance and recording studio, a boxing gym and basketball courts, and receive help with homework and nutritious meals during the school year.

The club’s success rate is amazing: 97% of their 2013 high school graduates enrolled in college; 90% of its graduates are enrolled over the last four years. As Executive Director Ron Hadorn told me, “Everyone knows they are poor, everyone knows they are underserved, but what they don’t know is that they are wonderful.” Your dollars at work, contributing to life-changing experiences.

Girls, Inc. Camp Kinneywood

This summer camp for young girls run by Girls, Inc. of Worcester is funded in part by the United Way. Visiting the camp and sharing some homemade guacamole with the campers was the highlight of my week!

Tomatoes, avocado, lemon...making guacamole with some friends.

Tomatoes, avocado, lemon…making guacamole with some friends. (United Way)

The girls were doing what most kids do at camp: playing games, swimming and singing songs. But they were also learning about science, reading, healthy eating and fitness. All this helps them make healthy choices and smart decisions to avoid violence and promote safety. They also gain self-esteem and in the process, learn how to treat others with respect.

Camp Kinneywood costs $250 per week per camper, but not a single one of the girls there this summer could afford it. Girls, Inc. provides scholarships using dollars from generous donors like you to subsidize the cost, but, unfortunately, there wasn’t enough funding to support all the girls who wanted to go. I was truly inspired to do more by watching them having fun with one another and the staff, many of whom went to the camp themselves.

YWCA Camp Wind-in-the-Pines

The last United Way program I visited was Camp Wind-in-the-Pines, a summer day camp for school-aged children in Leicester. Campers from urban areas get to explore nature and participate in water sports, games, and arts and crafts. Your donations help to support these activities and to provide transportation for the kids to and from the camp. Thanks to your generosity, hundreds of children are “transported” to a whole different world than they’re used to at Camp Wind-in-the-Pines.

I look forward to letting you know about other great community programs over the course of this fall’s United Way campaign. In the meantime, thanks to every one of you who has helped send a kid to a club or a summer camp this year and for everything you do every day to take great care of our patients and one another,