April 13, 2010

Cornell United Way Surpasses Fundraising Goal

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The Cornell community collectively raised more than $800,000 for Cornell United Way this year, surpassing its fundraising goal of $725,000.

“I think people recognize that this is a time in which there is a lot of community need,” said Paul Streeter, chair of Cornell United Way. “I think people reached deeper.”

The Cornell community exceeded this year’s goal — which was lowered by $15,000 from 2008-09’s goal to account for economic uncertainty, according to the University — by more than 10 percent, raising a total of $802,376 as of Mar. 23.

Donors primarily included Cornell faculty, staff and students, according to Streeter.

“It was a tremendous accomplishment, and we should celebrate the fact that the Cornell community responded in a time of great need,” he said.

According to Streeter, the Cornell United Way Student Campaign is an integral part of fundraising and volunteer efforts.

“I think the students are a tremendous force in generating awareness and promoting philanthropy on campus,” he said. “In the past few years the student United Way campaign has really picked up a lot of momentum.”

Cornell students are making efforts to expand their horizons into the Ithaca community, according to Jason Shapiro ’10, co-chair of the Cornell United Way Student Campaign.

“Based on my experiences here, I can say with confidence that Cornell students are becoming more aware of the growing need in the Ithaca community and beyond than ever before,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro acknowledged the community awareness efforts of Cornell athletic teams and student organizations.

“Especially in a university as active as Cornell, it is easy for students to get lost in their academics, extracurricular activities and social lives,” he said. “With this in mind, it is unbelievably inspiring for me to see other students and student groups — who are not directly tied to the United Way — taking the time to look beyond the borders of our campus …”

The Cornell United Way Student Campaign organizes Duff Ball, a senior prom for the class of 2010, which will take place on May 15. So far 627 tickets have been sold, raising over $23,000. According to Shapiro, the student campaign hopes to give $20,000 to United Way after costs for the event are subtracted.

With a little help from Cornell, the United Way of Tompkins County also raised more than expected Community Campaign goal of $2,075,000, raising $2,084,064 to date, according to its website.

According to the University, UWTC supports more than 150 health and human resource agencies offered by 43 community organizations. Donors can specify which organizations they wish to support.

“[United Way] supports a very broad and important range of services of critical importance to many in our community, particularly in these kinds of times,” Streeter said. “Whether it be food, shelter: basic services that the community needs.”

Gary Stewart, vice president of community relations for the University, stressed the importance of efforts like Cornell United Way and the United Way Student Campaign in college towns where so-called “town-gown relations” are not always positive.

“Cornell needs Ithaca for us to be successful and vice versa,” Stewart said. “It’s a partnership.”

Stewart praised student community awareness and involvement.

“I always like it when students use their intellect to help out in the community,” Stewart said. “That doesn’t happen accidentally.”

John Gutenberger, vice president of government and community relations for the University, was mayor of Ithaca for six years before coming to Cornell. He shared Stewart’s sentiments, calling Cornell students “outstanding.”

“They are some of Cornell’s best ambassadors [to the community] any given year,” Gutenberger said.

Despite student and University efforts, Gutenberger said, the relationship between town and gown remains complicated.

“I think that when you have a small community with a large institution, it’s easy to look to that institution [in order] to blame someone else [for your problems],” he said.

Nonetheless, Jason Shapiro urged students not to stop trying.

“I would ask that every person try to be that ‘spark’ to encourage others to engage in community service because every person has the ability to effect a positive change,” Shapiro said. “All it takes is that one person to make a big difference.”

Original Author: Dani Neuharth-Keusch