A few weeks ago, I was thrilled to celebrate the end of 2023 with over one hundred United Way volunteers at our end of the year celebration. And we had a lot to celebrate, between community events like our Days of Caring, creative fundraisers like Over the Edge, CARE-E-OKE, and SKYDIVE UNITED, making almost $400K in grants to local nonprofits, and many impactful projects like volunteer tutoring and pop up food pantries, I can comfortably say that in 2023 we positively impacted the lives of thousands of local residents.
So how do we top that in 2024? Well, in 2024 our plan is to do more of the same… but a lot more! We have already planned a full slate of Days of Caring, including our Shoebox Project to benefit homebound seniors, our Community Baby Shower to benefit local new families, and our Gleaning Event to produce food for local pantries in times of need. We are again planning a community wide food drive in June to go along with our bimonthly food drives, the produce which supports over a dozen local pantries. And we are also planning our community wide school supplies drive to benefit local students through our school supplies pantry. We also will continue to run monthly feminine hygiene products drive to support Rosie’s Pantry, helping to ensure that no girl ever needs to miss a day of school because she has her period. Our volunteer based tutoring program will continue to support local students coming out of the pandemic. And recently I announced that we are going all in on digital equity, helping to ensure that residents will all be able to benefit from access to the computers, smart devices, and internet which is becoming increasingly critical to survive and thrive in the 21st century. We are also very proud of our affinity group for seniors called “STAY UNITED” which has launched a reading program for pre-kindergarten children along with a monthly meetup to discuss topics like mental health, aging healthfully, and avoiding scams. They have also launched a weekly online Zoom meeting which functions as a place for homebound seniors to have conversations with friends, helping to address isolation and loneliness. And let us not forget our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program which last year prepared over 1,000 tax returns for low-income individuals, helping to bring in over $1 million in tax refunds to the community!
Of course, we have a few surprises up our sleeves, but discussion of these will have to wait for a future column. That said, everything in the prior paragraph represents an opportunity for YOU to get involved. Believe it or not, we are a pretty small organization when it comes to staff, with only 4 of us full-time. That means that we need A LOT of volunteers to make all this possible. To be honest, we truly believe that volunteers and volunteering are the lifeblood of the community. By volunteering, people can create meaningful change, not just through their donations of financial resources, but through putting in the sweat equity which it takes to create the vibrancy and health we seek. And by becoming a volunteer, the individual benefits as well. In fact, studies show that volunteers live longer, more connected, happier lives! We also believe in the concept of collective impact, meaning that the big problems require all of us to get solved. No single person or organization can wave a magic wand and solve those problems. We all need to get involved!
So, consider this your formal and personal invitation to get involved in 2024. We need you, and the truth is that we all need each other. And if there is one thing I know about Greater Nashua, it is that Great Things Happen when we LIVE UNITED! Happy New Year!
Mike Apfelberg is President of United Way of Greater Nashua