TOWN OF AMSTERDAM — Area nonprofits may soon have access to expanded resources and supports since the United Way of Montgomery County has joined the United Way of the Greater Capital Region.
“This unequivocally is an enhancement,” said Peter Gannon, president and CEO of the United Way of the Greater Capital Region. “We are able to do more because of this decision and it’s at a time when people need more help than ever.”
The acquisition of the county branch by the Capital Region organization that became official on the first of the month was publicly announced by officials from both agencies joined by local leaders at Alpin Haus RV on Monday.
The two agencies began working together to launch an emergency response amidst the pandemic when it became clear a more permanent partnership could help ensure the longevity of community activities and expand the United Way’s reach throughout the region.
“We’re trying to perpetuate Montgomery County’s agencies and make sure that they can continue to operate and are functioning and supported in a way that we’re not able to do as a small, part-time United Way with one employee,” said Fred Quist, director of the United Way of Montgomery County.
Quist has been the lone employee at the agency during his entire 12 years on the job. The nonprofit had been a one-person operation for at least five years before that.
Members of the Board of Directors stepped up to help out however they could, but Quist acknowledged the challenge of being solely responsible for day-to-day operations, fundraising, getting funding into the hands of local nonprofits supporting the community and more.
“We did the best we could,” Quist said. “But we could see that it really wasn’t sustainable.”
Now Quist will join the existing staff of two dozen employees at the United Way of the Greater Capital Region. Pat Beck, a long-time member of the Board of Directors for the county agency, will take a seat on the Capital Region board to ensure the community has a voice helping to direct resources.
United Way officials over the past year discussed the possible merger internally and with partner agencies and leaders throughout Montgomery County. The response was overwhelmingly positive, according to Beck. The potential to access grant writing and budgeting assistance were highlights for nonprofits whose volunteers normally navigate these critical tasks.
“The excitement and the questions they came up with was a great feeling, because they are going to utilize these resources and they have not had them available,” Beck said.
Amsterdam Mayor Michael Cinquanti pointed to the merger as another opportunity for the city and county to benefit from increasing their presence in the greater Capital Region.
“We intend to put the effort in on our end,” Cinquanti said. “I think it brings more resources to us and we’re going to have more input.”
The United Way of the Greater Capital Region has committed to at least maintaining existing funding to local nonprofits providing services in the community this year and next. That support amounts to approximately $45,000 a year allocated to 10 agencies across the county.
“These are long standing partners and we didn’t want to create any adverse situations for these organizations,” Gannon said. “Although ultimately we think we’re going to be able to deliver more for them in the near term, trust has to be developed, relationships need to be forged.”
Those agencies and other nonprofits in the county not previously receiving support could potentially apply for further funding or access other support services through the Capital Region agency that wasn’t possible before.
Staff from the expanded United Way are expected to visit and familiarize themselves with area agencies in the coming months looking for ways to collaborate. The agency is already discussing with Habitat for Humanity Montgomery County possibly taking over bookkeeping responsibilities to improve efficiency and save on expenses, according to Gannon.
“If you think you’ve got something that you think we can work on together, reach out,” Gannon said. “The power of our organization is that we bring national level resources at a hyper local level because we have people on the ground. It’s no different than what Fred had been doing, we’re just scaling it up.”
The agency is also preparing for the forthcoming introduction to the county programs that are already offered throughout the Capital Region, including its 211 hotline that connects individuals seeking support with resources 24/7 and the Danny Dollar Academy financial literacy youth program.
New opportunities for county residents to get involved in the United Way’s expanded activities and initiatives will be announced in the future.
Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.