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Posted 03.15.05

Wesleyan Breaks Record in United Way Campaign

Wesleyan University made a record-breaking contribution to this year’s Middlesex United Way annual community campaign.

Frank Kuan, director of community relations and volunteer community campaign chair, reported that Wesleyan raised $140,018 for the local United Way chapter, exceeding the campaign goal of $135,000. This is the most Wesleyan has ever raised for Middlesex United Way in the 60-plus years the university has been involved in the campaign.

Middlesex United Way supports critical human care services and county-wide projects that improve community conditions.

“This goes to show that Wesleyan employees care about the community that they work in, and many of us live in,” Kuan says. “Raising a record amount is a pretty amazing feat, and it’s a result of everyone’s diligence and effort.”

Wesleyan was among the top three contributors in the Middlesex United Way Campaign. Kevin Wilhelm, Middlesex United Way executive director said Wesleyan consistently ranks in the top 4 percent of all universities nationally with respect to average gift and percent. This year, Wesleyan represents 6.5 percent of Middlesex United Way's total of $2,150,000. 

Although it was a successful year in terms of dollars raised, the level of participation dropped, a development that has Kuan concerned. Last year Wesleyan had 62 percent of its employees participate; this year that number fell to 59 percent.

”Every dollar really counts and it all adds up for what we want to do locally,” Kuan says.

Despite the drop, seven departments did have 100 percent participation: the Center for Humanities, Classical Studies; Dean of the College Office; Financial Aid; Philosophy; Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science (PIMMS) and the Registrar’s Office.

The Leadership Circle, comprising 44 individuals and six vendors who pledged at least $1,000 a year, accounted for $71,050.86 or 50.7 percent of the total amount raised.

John Biddiscombe, director of athletics, chair of the department of physical education, Middlesex United Way Executive Committee 2002-04, and past president of the Middlesex United Way Board of Directors said the United Way campaign has emerged over the past ten years to the point where the employee contributions ranks first in Middlesex County. 

“Wesleyan has always provided strong support for the United Way,” Biddiscombe says. “However, now, not only does Wesleyan provide volunteers, but we also provide significant dollars to local people in need.”

In Middlesex County, United Way provides ongoing funding for 35 programs and services including the Amazing Grace Food Pantry, Girl Scouts Connecticut Trail Council Inc., Boy Scouts Connecticut River Council, Inc., Literacy Volunteers of Greater Middletown, Middlesex Hospital Family Advocacy Program, Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater and YMCA of Northern Middlesex County.

In addition to United Way’s core services, the organization is creating three new initiatives:

  • A substance abuse prevention initiative aimed at area teens.  

  • A program designed to reduce and treat behavioral problems among children from birth to 5-years-old.

  • An affordable housing project, due to launch this spring, will build upon local grassroots housing efforts to increase the affordable housing stock.

    In 2003, United Way touched 26,809 people, or 62 percent of Middletown’s population. Overall, it reached 53,750 people or 34 percent of all people in Middlesex County.

    Middlesex United Way recognized Wesleyan’s contributions with three awards at its recent annual meeting: a Silver Award for Participation, a Special Award for Excellence in Leadership Giving, and an Employee Honor Roll award for Five Consecutive Years of Campaign Growth.

    Joyce Jacobsen, professor of economics, and Mike Zebarth, director of PIMMS, will serve as co-chairs for the 2005-06 campaign. 

    For more information go to www.middlesexunitedway.org.

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    By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor