Last week we saw a sure sign that spring is coming - a robin outside the United Way building. Inside our building, it is also clear that spring is on its way. Not only are we in the home stretch of our 2013 Campaign, which ends March 31, but we are also preparing our call for program applications for our next investment cycle, and gearing up for for our Community Baby Shower and other volunteer activities.
All of these activities - our Campaign, the investments we make through programs and initiatives to address our community's most pressing needs, and our many varied volunteer programs - have one thing in common: you. Without your support as a donor or volunteer, our work is not possible. As winter slowly gives way to spring, we want to thank you for your commitment to creating a vibrant community with us.
The first day of Spring this year will bring the second annual Spring It On, Buffalo Niagara's Day of Giving. From 8 am on March 20 until 8 am on March 21, you can make a difference by making a contribution to your favorite nonprofit organization in Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Allegany or Orleans County. More than 140 organizations have already signed up, and more are registering every day. Check out www.uwbec.org/springiton2014 for a list of participating agencies, and stay tuned for more information. Winter won't last forever, and soon it will be time to Spring It On!
Each year in Erie County, thousands of babies are born into poverty. Each week in Erie County, 8 infants are born to women receiving late or no prenatal care. 21 babies are born pre-term, 15 are low birth weight, and 1 will die before age one.
You can make a difference through the third annual United Way Community Baby Shower, a community-wide effort to collect essential baby items that will help at-risk mothers to give their newborns a stronger start, giving them the supplies and support needed for a healthy beginning. Host a "Baby Shower" item drive with friends or co-workers, or donate money towards the purchase of supplies. Showers can be hosted between March 3rd and April 8th. Donated items will once again support new moms and babies served by three extraordinary United Way partners: Catholic Charities, Jericho Road Ministries and the Buffalo Prenatal-Perinatal Network.
Drop off donated baby items anytime between March 3rd and April 8th at the United Way building, 742 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo. For more information on how to host a Baby Shower item drive, or to see the wish list, visit www.uwbec.org/volunteer. If you have questions or would like to volunteer for the Pack-a-Thon, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 887-2744. Special thanks to our sponsor, ECMC, and media partners WKBW-TV and TownSquare Media.
If you are looking for ways to get involved in the community, it is easy to find opportunities year-round online at www.volunteerwny.org, our partnership with The Service Collaborative of Western New York. The site offers information about volunteer projects with local agencies, whether you want to spend a few hours or make a long-term commitment.
If you know a high school student who needs volunteer hours to meet community service requirements, the site now includes a section just for them. Youth ages 13-17 can create an account and sign up directly for volunteer opportunities tailored to high school students.
Did you know that if you earned less than $52,000 last year, you can have your taxes prepared and filed electronically for free? Creating Assets, Savings and Hope (CASH), a United Way initiative, partners with the Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers (BFNC) and other community organizations to provide free tax preparation services, and help qualified individuals and families access important tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
Tax returns are prepared by trained professionals through the IRS's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, and there are several sites throughout Buffalo that are open and accepting appointments. For more information, call 2-1-1 (dial 2-1-1 or 1-888-696-9211).
If you earned less than $58,000 last year and would like to do your taxes on your own, you can prepare and file your taxes for free through myfreetaxes.com. This service, a partnership with the Wal-Mart Foundation, United Way World Wide, Goodwill Industries and the National Disability Institute, provides fast and secure federal and state tax filing online through their software partner, H&R Block At Home. For more information or to get started on your return, visit www.myfreetaxes.com/cashbuffalo.
On Superbowl Sunday, Arthur Moats of the Buffalo Bills scored a major touchdown for our community, beating Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril in a contest to see which community could recruit more people to serve as volunteer tutors and mentors. As always, our community showed what we are all about as nearly 8,000 people signed up - beating Seattle by a wide margin of 1,500!
This incredible success not only means that there are thousands of volunteers ready to help youth achieve their potential; it has also meant a grant of $10,000 to support our work. We can't thank Arthur - and everyone who signed up to serve - enough!
With only a few weeks left in our 2013 Campaign, we continue to be amazed at the generosity of local companies that are going above and beyond in their fundraising efforts this year, with some stellar results. Below are just a few examples of extraordinary commitment to our community"
M&T Bank, always a leader in workplace Campaigns, continued to look at creative ways to communicate the campaign and recognize their donors. This year, they gave special recognition to their leadership donors, who give $500 or more to the Campaign. Those efforts paid off, resulting in a record employee giving campaign with a nearly 10% increase, led by over 300 leadership donors.
GEICO also ran an excellent campaign this year. A total of 90 presentations were held for 2,500 associates, and they used incentives such as casual days, gift cards and dinners to enhance their campaign. Although their final results are not yet it, it is possible they will exceed last year's extraordinary effort by more than 10 percent!
Goya Foods Great Lakes got off to a great start right away - they started their Campaign early, and held a moving presentation with a speaker from Big Brothers/Big Sisters. They raised nearly 50% more than last year, and had a phenomenal 78% increase in the number of donors.
DuPont created a campaign team comprised of representatives from across the organization. The team had a meeting at a local Boys & Girls Club to see the impact their efforts would have, this inspired the team to have a volunteer project to kick off their campaign. They added presentations for their employees, and the results were very impressive: their campaign increased by 54%, including a first-time gift from the United Steelworkers.
If you have made a pledge this year through your workplace, or as an individual, thank you. If not, there is still time - you can call 887-2614 or give online at uwbec.org.