New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

United Way starts annual campaign

- By Michael Walsh

CHESHIRE — Inside the locker rooms of the Cheshire YMCA, volunteers from Thomaston Savings Bank were busy painting.

The work was part of the United Way of Greater Waterbury’s Day of Caring, a kickoff to its annual fundraisin­g campaign that allows it to service programs in the communitie­s of Bethlehem, Cheshire, Middlebury, Prospect, Southbury, Thomaston, Waterbury, Watertown, Wolcott and Woodbury.

It was a face-lift much needed for the facility — those walls hadn’t been painted in nearly 15 years — and was met with enthusiasm by YMCA employees and members, who had smiles on their faces when they saw what was happening.

Chrissy Cassesse, the executive director of the Cheshire YMCA branch, said they couldn’t afford the expense for that painting job after other projects took precedence.

“We recently did minor renovation­s in the front of our house and the fitness area,” Cassesse said. “When they called, we hadn’t been able to paint this, so it was awesome that we could get volunteers down here to help with this. The members are super excited. A fresh coat of paint makes everything feel better.”

This was one of many volunteer projects taking place that Thursday from the United Way of Greater Waterbury. In all, over 80 volunteers were spread out at different work sites to help do their part.

Inside the men’s locker room, Thomaston Savings Bank employees Mark Crook and Jim Forker — both commercial lenders — were putting the new coat of paint on the wall.

“It’s part of the bank’s mission,” Forker said. “We give back to the community.”

“Volunteeri­ng brings you to reality and you get to meet a lot of different people,” Crook said. “It cleans the soul.”

These volunteers, the United Way of Greater Waterbury said, is what makes their fundraisin­g and work possible.

“Volunteers are everything to the organizati­on,” said Jessica Carlino, the organizati­on’s volunteer engagement coordinato­r. “It’s the reason why we’re able to do all the work we do in the community. The Day of Caring is really cool because it’s the opportunit­y to be engaged in the work we’re doing. We send out donors, people who are on committees, we are sending them out to agencies we work with. A landscapin­g project or painting a classroom, the things they are doing, means so much more because they are the hands-on support.”

Other volunteers at the YMCA that day included Amber Pinette, a financial adviser with Thomaston Savings Bank, and Becky Kayfus, who works in human resources with the bank in Thomaston.

“Time is one of the most important things you can give,” said Pinette, who is a Thomaston resident.

“That’s what this is all about.”

Kristen Jacoby, the president of the United Way of Greater Waterbury, said the Day of Caring and the rally that preceded it in the morning, are the kick off to a major way they financiall­y support the more than 40 programs they offer.

“Fundraisin­g is what allows us to do all this amazing work in our community,” Jacoby said.

“We’re a community impact organizati­on. We invest in education, financial stability and basic needs, which involves health. We are investing in human and financial capital.”

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