Osmin F. Alvarez, president and CEO of Boxcar Media LLC and publisher of iBerkshires.com, and Robert G. Abel, president and CEO of True North Financial Services, have expectations of exceeding this year's goal of $550,000.
So confident are they, that Abel "accidently" read the victory celebration speech readied for next spring.
"When we were first announced as co-chairs eight months ago in September 2012, we felt lucky to be part of such a great organization," Abel told the more than 150 gathered at the campaign kickoff breakfast at the Williams Inn on Friday morning. "To stand here today, May 14, 2013, and announce our success ... We not only met our goal, we blew through our goal for 2012 and 2013."
A stage whisper from Alvarez corrected his error, but Abel noted "the speech has been made, we've got to do it."
It won't be easy. The Northern Berkshire United Way hasn't made its goals over the past few years, and last year missed the mark by about $40,000. That has a direct impact on the 23 local member agencies that the United Way supports.
"It's an ambitious goal but it's one we're going to make and we're going to go right through," pledged Abel.
Alvarez and Abel have a competitive streak that Abel thinks will push them over the goal line: "We don't like to lose."
"I think we're going to be very aggressive," said Alvarez afterward. "From our standpoint, we're going to meet with as many people as possible and try to take what's working in one organization and apply it to as many organizations as possible to try to increase the employee giving, try to increase the businesses that are giving and we're just going get out there and work hard."
Northern Berkshire United Way supports non-profit organizations — ranging from the Youth Center, to Goodwill Industries, to the YMCA, to the Girl Scouts to Elder Services of the Berkshires — that provide services to more than 11,000 Northern Berkshire residents.
More than 150 attended the kickoff breakfast at the Williams Inn. This year's NBUW trivia winner was Karen Charbonneau, who correctly identified Esther Howard as the agency's first director (selecting her from a choices that included Mitt Romney, Barack Obama and an NFL replacement referee).
Since its inception in 1935 as the North Adams Community Chest, NBUW has raised more than $20 million for its member agencies. The annual campaign is its biggest moneymaker but the non-profit has had to lower its expectations in recent years as the economy stumbled.
Abel said the key this year will be raising awareness of volunteer-run agency's role in the community.
"I don't think people really know what the United way does and who the money actually goes to," he said. "... When you give to the Northern Berkshire United Way, it stays in the community and that's what people have to understand."
He told those in attendance that was "our" responsibility to spread the word about the work the agency does.
"It's our job to educate everyone we know and ask them to support this work," he said, "when you look at the list of member agencies, it's really hard to believe not everybody gives to this cause, these are places that change lives for the better each and every day."
During the annual business meeting, members elected Thomas Rumbolt as president, Amy Giroux as first vice president, Maureen Baran as campaign vice president, Dan Caplinger as agency relations vice president, Mike Hoffman as finance vice president, Jack Gould as community needs vice president and Ed Nimmons as treasurer.
Board members for 2012-13 are James Brosnan, Jerry Desmarais, Jay Durand, Christine Singer, David Bond, Julia Bowen, Chris Dodig, Butch Parrott, Bill Robinson and Ray Smith.
Rumboldt, who was re-elected, said the past year has "really been about relationships, and building and fostering those relationships ... We have an excellent group of people who work hard for everyone in this room, and in our community."
Executive Director Joseph McGovern thanked the many volunteers and organizations involved in the United Way.
"Our agency is entirely run by volunteers," he said. "This community in North County always amazes in the way that it's willing to step up and make sure the people who need help and need support are getting it."
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