The mission of the United Way of Northern New York is to measurably improve the lives of all residents of Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties through leadership, training and funding.
VOLATILITY, UNCERTAINTY, COMPLEXITY AND AMBIGUITY
The current environment of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) was unfamiliar to most communities and businesses prior to March 2020. Routine to military operations throughout history, especially combat operations, is successfully leading and navigating through multidimensional, chaotic, unclear circumstances with speed and agility.
A positive resultant of the ongoing crisis is the increased collaboration and cooperation between counties, businesses and nonprofit organizations. We have many constructive lessons learned, but overall, we have recognized the need for government and nonprofit critical services that are able to quickly surge to meet a large crisis demand. In many ways, we were not prepared. Small community volunteer fire departments and EMS squads were woefully under-equipped and ill-prepared due to budget constraints. Hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, who’ve been operating on the edge of a financial cliff, did not have the cash reserves or emergency supplies of masks, gowns and surgical gloves to meet the surge. We did not comprehend how to address mass mental health demands in the form of anxiety and depression. On the other hand, we saw agencies working together in creative ways that havechanged the dynamic of community care. We saw school districts performing miracles on a daily basis.
With the right balance of leadership, Northern New York can turn calamity into a stronger community ecosystem with a modernized economic engine, infrastructure to support new businesses, a collaborative, performance-driven support network that is able to rapidly scale to a crisis, and a higher quality of life for all residents.
Jamie CoxChief Executive Officer
Natalie Burnham, Chair Laurie Gleason, Vice Chair Dan Sweeney, Vice Chair Jan Mosher, Treasurer Cathy Brodeur, Secretary Walt Hammond, Past Chair
Shawn Mead, Chair
Keith Perry, Co-Chair
Leann West, Co-Chair
Kristen Aucter, Jeff Barnard, Courtney Battista Bish, Alex Hammond, John Johnson, Jan Macaulay, Sabrina Madden, Dan Menapace, Alicia Ruperd
UWNNY DISTRIBUTION WAREHOUSE
(Kaitlyn Schwab –UWNNY Staff)
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and downturn in the economy, the United Way of Northern New York recognized a critical, emerging need for vulnerable families throughout Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties. Due to the stress imposed on the national supply chain, with respect to food, baby care items, household cleaners, and personal hygiene items, a situation was created where limited supplies of goods were being delivered to retail stores, leaving the vulnerable population without timely or equitable access to these items. Further acerbating the problem was the dramatic increase of families impacted through job loss, which equated to more people in need.
The United Way of Northern New York established a lifeessential goods distribution center on March 23, and within a week, began distribution to 25 different municipalities throughout the North Country through 30 nonprofit organizations.
Through the amazing donation of Alex Morgia, who donated warehouse space, and quick establishment of relationships with Renzi Foodservice and Hill & Markes Wholesale Distributors, the UWNNY has distributed over 300,000 items, which include diapers, baby wipes, household cleaners, toilet paper, paper towels and hand sanitizer.
United Way has been the recipient of two major donations for distribution: 70,248 rolls of Cottonelle toilet paper by maker Kimberly-Clark, and 60,000+ bottles of spray hand sanitizer made by CAR-FRESHNER.
It is solely through the collaboration and generous support of many organizations and individuals throughout the community that has allowed UWNNY to operationally thrive during this time of national crisis.
COMMUNITY IMPACT –CAPE VINCENT
(Rebecca Dowling, Cape Vincent Food Pantry)
The UWNNY has stepped forward at a most critical time to help their partners, including Cape Vincent Community Food Pantry. Even though Cape Vincent is seen as a “resort area” we are also recognized by the State of New York as a rural poverty area. Our town does not have easy access to many essential items with our limited markets and no public transportation. We are a small community and it is difficult for our size population to support the many in need here. United Way has been instrumental in many media programs that have highlighted our pantry (and the others in our region) and we have received many donations because of these programs. In a year that village events, that are our traditional fund-raising opportunities, have been canceled, we are able to remain optimistic. If these donations continue, we will be able to continue our services without any reductions.
UWNNY Distribution Warehouse/Crisis Fund has enabled us to be able to help our very most vulnerable – our babies. For the first time we have formula, baby food and cereal, diapers and wipes for our littlest clients. And, when we provide diapers etc., the family can divert those costs to cover other household expenses. A win/win! We have been able to maintain a stock of PPE items for our volunteers and have enough to provide hand sanitizer to our clients along with antibacterial cleaners and paper products. All when the store shelves were bare. We have seen an increase in clients for March and April compared to prior years, serving about the same number as in November and December which are traditionally our highest numbers. We have also had new clients each month.
The partnership between UWNNY and nonprofits in the tri-county area, also involves weekly Zoom Meetings that enables us to discuss trends and share solutions to problems with other like agencies. Being a small, volunteer operation the Cape pantry has benefited tremendously by being able to network with the large, professional agencies that have resources we do not. We have learned so much from these professionals that has helped us be able to plan and prepare for what is ahead. We are very grateful to have this exchange of knowledge and insight from others.
UWNNY has been a most reliable partner. Asking how to help and then following through with results. Giving, listening, encouraging and educating. In general, our helping hand when it is needed the most.
COMMUNITY IMPACT –LEWIS COUNTY
(Scott Mathys, Lewis County Opportunities)
The COVID-19 pandemic and residual impact has been unprecedented. Economic instability and individual fear resulted in stressed food and shelter systems. Living under the pressure of financial insecurity also increases other stress factors that contribute toward the presence of domestic violence, increased anxiety and/or depression, and substance use disorders. Ultimately, these issues touch the entire community. Many local organizations want to be a helping hand for people struggling now. However, obtaining critical supplies became challenging as these items became difficult to source. UWNNY stepped up into a position of leveraging, coordination, and leadership.
Lewis County Opportunities (LCOI) is gracious for the support from UWNNY on many fronts. Regular weekly Community Calls facilitated by United Way have helped identify the critical item needs as the COVID-19 pandemic impact has progressed. What was needed in the first weeks is not what is needed now. Through these calls, United Way has adapted their procurement according to real-time input from the various partner agencies.
The UWNNY coordinated distribution process provides seamless access to various critical supplies. For essential services to remain open, items such as masks, gloves, and recently no-touch thermometers are necessary. UWNNY has reacted, sourced the products, and provided those items to organizations in the tri-county area. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves are used when handling food and boxes being prepared for families. It allows the food items to remain sanitary through the delivery process. Masks protect our workers and volunteers as they perform their essential duties. Critical supplies such as baby food/formula, diapers, and wipes have been a huge help to those families with young children. Having these items readily available helps these families get through the month, or until the next amount of WIC/SNAP is available to them. Toilet paper, paper towels, and cleaning supplies are equally needed and appreciated for consumers who can’t afford or couldn’t find these items in local stores. This is especially helpful for some of our consumers who are homebound due to health concerns. Cleaning notwithstanding, the hand sanitizer provided by UWNNY has been used by workers, volunteers, consumers, and even in vehicles used for delivering food supplies. The hand sanitizer helps protect the essential workers and families at home to limit the spread of the virus. UWNNY has also procured commercial cleaning supplies. These supplies help with the increased sanitation requirements and have been beneficial throughout the Food Pantry Network as well as the residential programs such as our Homeless Apartment and Domestic Violence Safe Dwelling.
The Food Pantry Network has locations in New Bremen, Harrisville, Copenhagen, Croghan, and Port Leyden. Collectively this network served 788 people in the last two months. Looking beyond these numbers is a face within our community who needed help. You may see these faces every day but may not know their internal struggle. They are faces of men, women, and children; our neighbors and friends. Further, a number of individuals and families have needed to access the Domestic Violence Safe Dwelling over these past two months. These “numbers” likewise are faces of people, including children, who have experienced intimate partner violence. Their daily disruption rose well above inconveniences of stay-at-home directives. It is during these times when people need caring and empathetic support the most. The essential workers on the frontline are pressing through with their roles. And UWNNY has been fueling those efforts with the critical supplies discussed previously. All of the workers, volunteers, and consumers who have received any of these items are very appreciative.
MENTAL HEALTH DURING COVID-19
(Natasha Gamble, UWNNY Staff)
During this difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath, I have learned that domestic violence and drug overdose situations are increasing in our communities. People are gaining weight, losing weight, and completely changing their lifestyles, mostly for the worst. This can be prevented as well as turned around. Having a self-care plan in place is very important during this difficult time as well as knowing who to talk to when needed. There are many different activities we can do to stay mentally and emotionally healthy. Walking, taking photos of nature, gardening, reading, journaling, drinking water, watching online comedy and listening to music that makes us happy.
I believe that getting into a routine every day helps bring stability into our lives. Waking up at a consistent time, eating enough food to stay healthy, moving our bodies and spending time (in person or virtually) with people who benefit us is highly important. During this crisis, we may have lost loved ones, a job, a routine, graduation, etc., but I believe that feeling our emotions and letting ourselves laugh, cry and grieve is very important.
Rodger Hicks, Clinical Therapist, Transitional Living Services
STAFF MEMBER HIGHLIGHT
CLEMENT WONG DIRECTOROF FINANCE
Clement Wong is the Director of Finance of UWNNY who works closely with our CEO and the rest of the team to serve our community. After spending nearly 2 decades working in audit and accountancy firms in the United Kingdom, Clement understands the importance of financial wellness and challenges in the nonprofit organizations.
Clement holds his BS in Biotechnology from King’s College, London, a Fellow member of ACCA. He moved to update New York in 2016 after over 30 years in Hong Kong and the UK. Clement currently lives in Watertown with his 10- year-old male Miniature Schnauzer, Darcy. On Clement’s free time, he enjoys traveling, music, golf and gardening.
Clement Wong with his Dog, Darcy.
COMMUNITY BROADCASTERS & WPBS-TV RAISE FUNDS FOR THE UNITED WAY
(Natasha Gamble, UWNNY Staff)
“The amount of support that our community gave us on May 5th was surreal. No matter if it was a $10 or $1,000 donation to the Crisis Fund, we greatly appreciate that changes you are helping make to your community. I want to thank every donor. Even though I grew up, went to college and have been working in the North Country for two years, I have never witnessed anything like this pandemic and crisis we are in. During hard times, we must join together as a community and make the change. I want to say thank you to Community Broadcasters, LLC, including all of the radio stations that made this day a success as well as a thank you to WPBS-TV for hosting the Music Across the Border concert that also brought in donations to make a difference”.
(Tobi Darrah, UWNNY Staff)
“I felt so proud and grateful to be a part of the May 5th Community Broadcasters, LLC radiothon and WPBS concert that raised funds for United Way’s Crisis Fund. Being one of the staff that answered the donation calls and talking with the donors felt amazing and uplifting. This event confirmed that we have so many generous individuals and families in our community, who step up to help meet the needs of vulnerable families. Nearly every donor expressed their gratefulness for what they have, and their pride in being able to help others. Having spent 30 years with United Way, talking with these donors reaffirmed my pride in the United Way and our ability to create meaningful impact to help every community.”
A MESSAGE FROM OUR CEO
PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE
As I reflect on the past 3 months and how our lives and lifestyles have been permanently changed, I quickly shift my focus to the future of the North Country. I think about companies that will not reopen, jobs that won’t rematerialize, and the families, children and seniors who will suffer as a result of the economic aftermath of the pandemic. The federal and state governments are increasing social program benefits, which is what the most vulnerable residents in our community need. However, we will still have to provide solutions for our ALICE families. ALICE – or Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – are families who are working – often multiple jobs – to make ends meet. But one small financial bump, such as an emergency car repair or an unplanned medical cost, creates a situation where they must choose between paying for food, shelter or the crisis. The United Way has just completed the 2020 ALICE study, which details the challenges that ALICE families face in Northern New York. Our focus over the next few years will continue to evolve and refine our programs to produce the greatest outcomes for each community in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties.
Wishing you good health, contentment and joy during this beautiful summer.
United Way of Northern New York Partner List
- ACR Health
- American Red Cross
- Association of Blind and Visually Impaired of NNY
- Cape Vincent Food Pantry
- Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Ogdensurg
- Children’s Miracle Network of Samaritan Hospital
- Church and Community Center of Canton
- Community Action Planing Council
- Cornell Cooperative Extension Association
- Credo Community Center for The Treatment of Addictions
- Disabled Person Action Organization
- Family Counseling Service
- Garden Share
- Girl Scouts of NYPenn
- Hand in Hand Early Childhood Center
- Lewis County Opportunities
- Literacy of Northern New York
- Lowville Food Pantry
- Massena Police Athletic League
- Massena Salvation Army
- Mental Health Association in Jefferson County
- Mountain View Prevention
- New Day Children’s Center
- North Country Family Health Center
- North Country Prenatal Perinatal Council
- Northern Regional Center for Independent Living
- Ogdensburg Boys & Girls Club
- Ogdensburg Salvation Army
- Resoulution Center of Jefferson and Lewis Counties
- Rohde Center
- Salvation Army (Empire)
- St. Lawrence Community Development Program
- St. Lawrence Valley Renewal House for Victims of Domestic Violence
- The Arc, Jefferson – St. Lawrence
- The Arc, Oneida Lewis Chapter
- Thousand Islands Habitat for Humanity
- Transitional Living Services of NNY
- Victims Assistance Center of Jefferson County
- Volunteer Transportation center
- Watertown Family YMCA
- Watertown Salvation Army
- Watertown Urban Mission
- Wilna-Champion Transporation Association