NORTH ADAMS -- By foregoing a single cup of coffee a week, anyone donating just $2 a week to the Northern Berkshire United Way can help send a local child to summer camp for a week.
That's just one example of stories being shared by Northern Berkshire United Way 2012-2013 campaign co-chairmen Robert Abel, president and CEO of True North Financial Ser vices, and Osmin "Ozzie" Alvarez, president and CEO of Boxcar Media, as they meet with local people and businesses during fundraising efforts to reach this year's goal of $550,000.
"We've seen a lot of positive response from educating employees and employee groups about how the Northern Berkshire United Way helps individuals and families who live and work locally," Abel said Thursday. "When you truly sit down and learn what local organizations the Northern Berkshire United Way helps and how many local people benefit from its help, it becomes really hard to not give to it."
The Northern Berkshire United Way, which has 23 member organizations, kicked off its annual fundraising campaign at the end of Sep tember at the Williams Inn.
NBUW Executive Director Joseph McGovern said that while the campaigns at local businesses are about 50 percent complete, the campaign is already seeing dramatic increases in participation by individuals and businesses.
"All of the initial signs are pretty strong," he said. "We've had some really good [business] campaign kick-offs.
"Any time we get a chance to have face-to-face conversations with individuals or employees [of participating businesses], we get a very good response."
McGovern added, "There's been a lot of energy and excitement this year. Rob and Ozzie are doing an incredible job and opening up some new doors for us."
Alvarez said educating individuals is a key part of the fundraising strategy this year.
"One thing Rob and I have been stressing this year is getting to meet as many people as we can," he said. "We've had a lot of positive responses. We had a great meeting with [Northern Berkshire Health care President and CEO] Tim Jones at the hospital, who whole-heartedly backs the NBUW. There's been a lot of positive energy and responses from the community."
Abel said that by sharing stories of just how the money raised is kept and used locally has helped increase participation this year.
"It's pretty powerful when you learn the donation of $1 a week can feed someone three meals a day for a week or that a $3 donation a week pays for a week of day care so a local parent can go to work and support their family," he said. "I've always given to the NBUW, but I never really knew where the money was going.
"I always imagined it was going to something good. In this role, learning about these stories and being able to share them has only strengthened my commitment to this organization."
While numbers won't be firm until closer to the campaign's end in May, the co-chairmen believe their efforts are making a difference.
"From what we know so far, we've had really good indications that our participating businesses are exceeding or reaching their [individual company] goals," Alvarez said.
Abel shared his sentiment: "The impression we're getting is that it is going well and that the process is going well. We're getting more of a response than just good feelings and good will."
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