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April 5, 2024 28 mins
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Welcome to Pulse of the Region,brought to you by the Metro Hertford Alliance.
The Metro Hertford Alliance collaborates with investorsand partners to elevate the Hertford region
through economic development work, convening thecommunity and providing chamber support for the City
of Hartford. Learn more about theirmission and how to get involved at Metrohartford
dot com. Pulse of the Regionis produced in partnership with oak Hill.

Oak Hill was originally founded as aschool for the blind in eighteen ninety three.
Oak Hill has provided holistic, personcentered services for individuals with disabilities for
over one hundred and thirty years.With empowerment and independence as its guiding principles.
Oakhill works in partnership with the individualsit serves to provide residential education and

enrichment opportunities. Learn more at oakhillctdot org. Now here's your host for
Pulse of the Region, Kate Ballman. Hello, Hello, and welcome to
Pulse of the Region, the showwhere we highlight all of the wonderful,
incredible things happening here throughout our greaterHartford region. I'm your host, Kate
Bowman. Here today in the iHeartMediaStudios as always and it's lovely. I

have our guests here smiling back atme here today, excited for this show.
And today we are getting the pulseabout the centennial celebration for the United
Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut onehundred years. So it looks like we
only have thirty minutes for the show, but hopefully we can fit the hundred
years in. But extremely excited tohave both of our guests here with us
today. Great partners of the MetroHartford Alliance, so from the United Way

of Central and Northeastern Connecticut. First, we have their senior Vice president of
Marketing and Development, Moura Cook,So Maura, Welcome to Pulse of the
Region. Thanks for having me,of course, so excited to have you
here. I feel like you're alwayson the back end of coordinating all our
shows, a lot of our events, our partnership. So thrilled to have
you sitting right across with the microphonein front of you today. Yeah,

me too. Fantastic. And next, a newer face to the United Way.
He is their chief Philanthropy Officer,Clayton Jason. So. Clayton,
welcome to Pulse of the region.Thank you, such a pleasure to be
here today, of course, well, fantastic, fantastic. So first things
first, more, you know,everyone knows the United Way, and certainly
you know, I'm sure very familiarwith your impact here. But if you

don't mind kind of high level justa reminder of really the work that you
guys are doing here, especially herein our region. Absolutely so United Way
of Central Northeastern Connecticut is committed tomobilizing resources for the well being of children
and families and we have done this, as you mentioned, Kate, for
nearly one hundred years now, crazyfounding. So what is the actual date

of this birth date? June twentyfour, Okay, So we are rapidly
coming up on our birthday, onour founding, and we do have just
some really amazing history in this community, in this region. The companies who
came together to found us are actuallystill here right in Hartford. We are

still amazing partners with them, ourHSB, Conning and NASA, their leaders
came together at the time to addresspressing issues in the community and they organize
the first community campaign back in nineteentwenty four too. It really sends to
support the children and families who werestruggling with a variety of issues, and

that tradition has continued in this communityand we're really proud of that. That's
incredible, and it's i mean talkabout kind of really a statement for our
region too, to have not onlythe United Way with such history here,
but then companies who are still herein some of our pillar organizations here in
the business community today. Absolutely andthey're still just such strong partners, such
great commitment to affecting change, toengaging their employees in volunteerism, in giving

and philanthropy, and we're very luckyto have such committed partners here. Definitely
completely agree with that statement, andso kind of you know, so far
the centennial years kicked off and there'sbeen a lot of I know, a
ton of efforts. What's going intoleading up to this year if you talk
just a little bit, and howeverything's been coming together so far. So
our CEO Eric Harrison always says thatnineteen twenty four was our birth and twenty

twenty four is really going to beour rebirth and our reintroduction into this communities.
Love that things have really changed rightin one hundred years. Of course,
we have a really strong foundation tobuild on. We have a strong
reputation here locally, but things havechanged in terms of how people want to
give, how people want to beengaged, how people want to be able

to affect change in their communities,and so our United Way has really been
working to evolve. Right. Traditionally, we have been that organization that helps
raise funds in the community, givesthem out to quality programs and nonprofits,
helps be a steward of donor dollarsand a processor for workplace giving. And
we still have a really important roleto play in that. But something that

you're going to see from us goingforward is a really strong commitment to deep
and lasting impact and leveraging things thatwere already good at right. We're going
to do that by ramping up ouradvocacy efforts. We're going to do that
by ramping up our ability to workacross sectors to bring resources into this community.
And what you're going to see fromus in honor of our one hundredth

birthday is a bold new strategic visionand plan for the future and how we
can really create big change in thetowns that we serve. Excited to talk
more about that today, So Iwill give that as a teaser a little
bit, because first, Clay andwould love to get first of all,
welcome, because you are a newerteammates to unight Away. When did you
join the team. I joined theteam about a month ago, so it's

very new, So that's incredible.Well, welcome, Excited to have you.
And you know what really kind ofinspired you to, you know,
look to work for the United Way. Yeah, great question, Thank you
so much. I feel just sofortunate and blessed to be joining this organization
at such a pivotal time. Asmore clearly stated just a minute ago,

We're doing such a great important workin the community, and I'm so grateful
to be able to help our donors, volunteers and the organizations that we partner
with truly make an impact in ourcommunity. Fantastic And can you share a
little bit about your history and kindof what brought you here today? So,
in my humble opinion, I thinkI have the best job in the
world. I get to help peopleaccomplish their philanthropic goals and that is something

that I truly value and take tomy heart, is helping people again with
working with donors on an everyday basisthat is a true passion of mine,
but also seeing the impact in ourcommunity and helping those in need in our
community. Definitely, that's great.And where were you previous to I know
you have kind of some experience withdifferent nonprofit organizations. Can you highlight a

little bit on your background. Yeah, I had the distinct fortune of working
for the Yukon Foundation for about sevenyears and I was in the realm of
what I call plan giving, whichI'll be talking a little bit about today.
Nice and helping people with their estateplans and their legacy giving and really
a sustainable approach for giving and anorganization and just really valued the work of

helping donors and helping students achieve theirgoals as well. Fantastic and we'll definitely
talk more about that because I thinkso important something that we may not always
think of too So a great wayto have more individuals get involved and so,
but first thing starts want to goback to again kind of the planning
in for the centennial year and youknow, really again going I love that
kind of you had the birth innineteen twenty four and now the rebirth and

if you talk a little bit,you know more just about kind of really,
how is the United Away paving theway kind of for this new path.
So we have been working on thestrategic plan for really almost two years
to get to this place of beingable to really launch our centennial celebration.
And we really started by listening outon a listening tour to our donors,

our stakeholders, our nonprofit partners,people who benefit from the services that we
provide, and we held more thanforty community conversations and donor interviews across our
region. We had a very widerepresentation when it came to gender, age,

race, and ethnicity, which wasfundamental, and we had more than
four hundred people actually participating, Ohmy goodness talking with us through this.
That's a lot of listening conversations.Listening. That's really important. United Way.
One of our core values is thatwe do things with the community,
not for the community, and Ithink that listening and hearing back from people
about where there were gaps and howwe could be best positioned to close those

gaps and create real opportunities for peoplewas absolutely the way that we needed to
start the planning for who we weregoing to be moving forward. That's great
and I know certainly kind of aspart of that than outcomes, you know,
of all these listening tours, ifyou could highlight a little bit,
so I'm sure there's a ton,but you know, kind of where do
you guys start first? Yeah,so a few of the key takeaways was

first and foremost great news for us. We heard a lot about the respect
that people have for United Way acrossthe region and the feeling that we're positioned
to help increase community impact and equityhere in central and Northeastern Connecticut. Okay,
something else I really want to highlightis we heard a lot of really
rich information about the substantial assets andstrengths that we have here, and there

was real energy around the fact thatwe have amazing things to offer here in
central and Northeastern Connecticut that positioned uswell to be able to build stronger and
better connected communities, and there wasa real desire for that connection. Okay,
how do we unite our region?How do we make sure that your
zip code does not determine your lifeexpectancy or your opportunity for academic success.

That was a theme that we heardover and over again and something I'll talk
a lot more about later on andfinally that tweaks are not enough. People
want fold change and they want systemchanges that are really going to improve outcomes
for people and most importantly reduced disparities. Okay, fantastic. So a lot
of great information there, and ona positive it's wonderful to hear that individuals

living here, you know, working, living, participating here in the community.
I feel we're on a great path, which is certainly something we sell
a lot, as you know,is looking at bring companies here to the
region. So how do you nowgo and kind of that next steps?
I believe there's a program kind ofcalled Onward and would love if you could
maybe highlight that a little bitause Ijust think some incredible things to come there.

Yes, so for our one hundredyear celebration, of course, we
will have moments where we celebrate ourstrong history and the things that we've accomplished
together, but we really want tofocus on the future. So based on
the insights from our community conversations anda lot of data we use that our
Alice Report, we used the dataHaven Community Well Being in Index. We

gathered all of this together, andour leadership and our board really helped us
design a strong founding for this newstrategic plan which is onward eight six.
So so with one hundred years ofour expertise, we have this bold vision
to transform our community and unite ourregion on a path that I think will
really deepen impact and will help usbring people together close these gaps that have

existed for many, many years.And we're really excited to be able to
do that definitely. And I wantto go back. You talked about the
Alice Report, which I have toask, is one report I always you
know, am fascinated by. Iwant to say look forward every year because
unfortunately sometimes it brings out some informationthat may not be you know, I
want to say the most positive areasof opportunities for growth for us, positive
growth, and if you could toucha little bit just on you know,

the latest findings from that Alice Report, which then I know we're kind of
leading to some things ahead too.Yeah. So this report, actually we've
typically released with Connecticut United Ways ourAlice Report every two years since about twenty
thirteen. Actually delayed this report alittle bit so we could have our first
look at how did the pandemic andthe ripple effect and economic impacts really affect

families in our region. And sowe released our most recent report in September
of twenty twenty three. So thisis okay, good timing in terms of
us looking at our strategic plan.So what we've seen is that financial hardship
continues to increase. We saw alot of interesting things though, around things
that we put in place during thepandemic to help families that really worked but

did not remain right, okay,so interesting saw things around eviction protections,
right, there were eviction protections duringthe pandemic. We offered enhanced earned income
and child tax credits during the pandemic. We had, you know, the
stimulus support that certainly helped families inthe height of the pandemic when they've shut

down. But the tax credits Iwant to go back to in particular,
that enhanced ourn income and child taxcredits, even if only temporarily, lifted
families out of poverty, lifted childrenout of poverty, and then they went
away, right right, Inflation continuedto rise, and these things are not
permanently available for our families. Sowhat we saw in this year's ALICE report

is that that kind of stabilized thingsfor a moment because we were offering these
enhancements even when people were in placesof great vulnerability. There were a lot
of services that were available to people. And now that we've moved beyond that
and inflation has surged, particularly inour state, also across the country for
the last two years. What wesaw is when we did our last age

support for a family of four tomake ends meet, they needed to be
earning nearly ninety five thousand dollars ayear. When we applied the inflation index
to where people were at in youknow, twenty twenty one, people now
need to earn nearly one hundred andeighteen thousand dollars for a family or to
make ends meet. So we havenearly forty percent of families who are living

below that threshold, including those livingin extreme property, below the federal poverty
level at twenty seven in a yearfamily of four. So it's a lot
of families who are one step awayfrom financial crisis, living constantly in financial
crisis. And we want to dosomething about that, definitely, And kind
of what are some of those plansforward? I guess kind of to do

something you know, certainly such anissue that is, you know, something
all of us I'm sure too listeners, you know, and how listeners can
help as well. So I thinksomething that's really important for people to understand
is that we talk a lot asnonprofits about poverty and about what it means
to be experiencing financial hardship, andI think what we see here in Connecticut

is that there's a really wide rangeas I just definitely families who are really
struggling to be able to make endsmeet. So first and foremost, I
would encourage people to make themselves awareof community passions, look at some of
those text persons I mentioned, andreally understand what this means for families who

cannot afford the basics. We arereally ramping up our advocacy efforts, so
we are going to be We havebeen advocating for a child tax credit here
in Connecticut. We're continuing to advocatefor that even if it's not happening federally.
We've seen great things happen when inConnecticut we enhance our earned income tax
credit and we offer a child taxcredit. So if you'd like to contact

your legislators and let them know aboutthe value that the child tax credit can
offer for families, that is ahuge way that you can support and giving
right giving to organizations like United Waywho are really putting a stake in the
ground and saying this cycle of povertyis complex, but we have seen things
that work that can eradicate it.We need to stop treating the symptoms of

poverty and we need to work toaddress the system changes that are keeping people
in this cycle both living in extremeand working poverty. Very well said,
and you know love that going backto giving too. I think that's something
that has really changed for all ofus over the last you know, during
the pandemic it was different and postpandemics very different. And Clayton would love
for you to kind of touch onyou as a lot of things that Moraa

touched on is you know, kindof things are shifting, but there's still
a lot of great ways for individualsand companies to get involved. And if
you talk a little bit just onhow can people still stay connected and best
support the work of the United Wags. I think it's so important, so
many people want to help, butwhat's the best way kind of help direct
us. I think that's a perfectsegue to take a moment just to say

thank you to our many donors andvolunteers who help accomplish our important work each
and every day and help us closethose gaps more so eloquently detailed here to
answer your question, we encourage peopleto continue to support our work in three
main ways, and that's giving,advocating, and volunteering. On the giving

side, they're the main avenues forgiving at our organization include individual gifts,
workplace giving campaigns, and special events. So giving's not a one size fits
all model. We're here to helpindividuals accomplish their unique philanthropic goals at every
stage of life. As we celebrateour centennial and gear up for the next

hundred years. As I mentioned before, sustainability is key and more crucial than
ever for our organization. Plan Giving, as I mentioned before as well,
is primarily through one's estate plans andit allows for flexibility and not parting with
assets today. So that also allowsfor one to honor their own legacy and

us to properly steward their vision inperpetuity, which again is crucial to our
sustainability. Another critical component to ourour organization moving forward is growing our endowment
that will allow us to operate inperpetuity concentrate more on our programmatic support,

and this can be done in one'slifetime or through their plan gifts. We
encourage those interested to contact us toreceive tailored information to help them again at
all stages of their philanthropic journey.And again we certainly realize that it's not
a one size fits all and happyto work with people at their own comfort

levels. The other ways that onecan be involved as more mentioned or advocating
and volunteering. So on the advocatingside, we need help advocating for public
policy change that will provide relief forhard working families. Personal involvement and actions
advocating for these topics will move theneedle and supporting our households in our region.

More already mentioned, but some examplesof this could be creating our permanent,
fully refundable Connecticut Texts child credit,no cost school means for Connecticut kids,
investing in United Ways two one oneessential information and referral service uses.
And on the volunteering side, again, we're so fortunate to have so many

selfless, thoughtful volunteers that help usaccomplish our goals daily, but we certainly
could move could use more as we'retaking on these very ambitious centennial plans.
On the volunteering side, individuals andgroup opportunities are available and perfect for team

building with employee retention efforts as wellas one time efforts as well. We
have convenient opportunities for people who liketo engage and collaborate closely with philanthropists and
volunteers in our region through networking andaffinity groups and just quickly some of those
include our Emerging Leader Society, ourWomen's United Group, our Women of Tokville,

our Constitution Society, and our TopvilleSociety. And again want to thank
all of our current members and alwayshappy to share information on those networking and
affinity groups. Definitely, it's beenwonderful over the years we've been able to
kind of share some further information aboutthose groups. I know, clean if
you could just you know, kindof high level some of the examples of
maybe you know, selecting one ofthose kind of just touch on how people

really can get involved, because Ido think it's so innovative the ways that
you've been guys have really been ableto set up, you know, how
people can get involved with some ofthose groups. Yeah, thank you.
So. Our Women of Tokville groupis a fairly new affinity group for organization,
and it's a strong, like mindedindividual group that allows for networking opportunities

and special events, but it alsoallows to pull resources and make impact on
issues that the group are most passionateabout. So in addition to the volunteering
and networking of women in Tokville,they're very passionate on the advocacy side,
and we're so fortunate to have theirleadership in this realm and really help us

move those efforts forward. A lotof great stuff happening, which is incredible
and I want to hear more.Okay, so year one hundred, I
know there's some parties planned, asthere should be, right, so more
one if you talk a little bitabout just some of the celebrations and some
of the newer programs which I thinkit is so important to highlight for this
year. Absolutely, so people canexpect to see our typical calendar of events

and then some right as weate thisamazing centennial years. So we recently kicked
off our centennial with Kickoff celebration wherewe shared a lot of the findings that
we're talking through with our listeners todayfrom our community conversations and our extensive research.

April is also National Volunteer Month,and so we are launching eight six
O cares, so we're encouraging peopleto come together to participate in projects.
We will have a variety of kbuildingprojects happening at our building and out at
people's workplace locations, and then wealso have some beautification projects. April is

you know, National Volunteer Month.It's a global month of service for a
lot of our workplaces, so there'sgoing to be a lot of activity in
People who are interested in learning aboutvolunteering can definitely get involved with United Way.
Then we also will have our typicalcommercial real estate which this one is
I need to I think put myticket in for requestion like two months ago.

Oh my goodness, this was waslast year, your first year for
this one, so this is actuallyour first year. Was actually in twenty
twenty one during COVID and so theyhad to hold their first event virtually and
they still mobilize seventy sponsors and raisedthree hundred thousand dollars. Oh my goodness.
This year now fast forward, weare up over one hundred sponsors for

this wow. They are going tobreak the half million dollar mark and funds
raised all sports preventing and addressing homelessnessin the community. So this is an
amazing group of members of the commercialrate, real estate, and building industry
who are coming together for building foundations. This breakfast is presented by tremwill Crow

Residential. It's a great networking event. We've moved into the Connecticut Convention Center.
That's I saw that, and it'sdefinitely going to be a sold out
event. So we have a couplemore weeks before we close sponsorship and ticket
opportunities. So definitely if folks areinterested in attending that event on May second,
contact United Way for more info.Okay, nice, we have I

just say, busy month in April, big May event and then and then
June. It's I don't think youguys are taking any month off this year,
right, Nope, we have it, lucky you, Right, everyone's
busy all year round. So Junesixth, at the Connecticut Convention Center,
we will celebrate our United Way WomenUnited Power of the Purse Luncheon and Silent
auction, which is presented by Keybank Y for Women. We are so

excited to have Rita Marino as ourkeynote speaker. I'm so excited. I
it was the first led Tina towin all four of the most prestigious awards
in the business, the Oscar Tony, two Emmys, and a Grammy.
She is such a champion for alot of the issues that United Way focuses
on in community and just a hugerole model for women. And we're so

excited to welcome her to Hartford.And that's going to be an absolutely amazing
event. That's I would say,going to be great. And if for
anyone who hasn't been to that,talk about an event that really uplifts you
clean. I don't know if you'vebeen yet, but you need to make
sure you bring like the highest energyyou possibly can bring to that and then
you leave with even more energy thanyou walked in because of ever and in
the room. Yeah, it's absolutelyincredible. Yeah, it's a canvass.

It is It definitely is so.And then what does the fall look like?
I know, additional other you know, kind of legacy events mixed in
with some new items. Yes.So we have a pretty new partnership with
Fox sixty one where we have soughtout to celebrate people in communities across our
state who are making a difference okay, and that is through the Impact Wars.

So this will be our second annualevent. We'll be honoring individuals,
groups, and organizations who make asignificant contribution in healthcare, housing, financial
education, and financial empowerment and educationin Connecticut. So our nominations are going
to open up next month, sopeople should stay tuned for that. Nominate
the people who deserve a little bitof praise for all of the great things

that they do. There are somany amazing people who are giving their time
and talent and treasure to help others, and we want to recognize them through
this event. That's fantastic. Iknow a great group that were recognized last
year, so excited excited for thisyear. That'll be wonderful. And then
last out, I was going tosay last, but not least, at
the end of the year, wewill have our gala. So this we

are going to have a centennial galacelebrating this one hundredth year milestone in our
community. And we really want thisevent to be future focused. Will announce
a lot of where we're going withour strategic plan and hopefully make some exciting
announcements about our impact going forward.But I think my favorite part at this
event. About this event is thatwe're really going to encourage executives in our

community to bring emerging leaders fantastic tofocus on the future success and health of
this region. And this is whatwe heard over and over again in community
conversations. We have so much tooffer here, want people to see that,
we want people to be engaged,and we want to foster the next
generation of leaders. And so ourcentennial Gala will be focused on that,
fantastic and that's on December fourteenth,correct fourteenth at the Convention Center. Okay,

wonderful. Well, certainly a lothopefully everyone had their pen and papers
that to take notes on all this, but certainly a lot of ways that
people can get connected with the UnitedWay more. If you don't mind kind
of sharing a little bit more informationthere, sure so visit Unitedway ink dot
org. We will have a wholepage dedicated to our centennial events. You

can find all the you need righton our homepage. There are so many
ways to get involved in a reallyimportant part of who United Way has always
been is an organization that connects peoplewho need help with the resources to get
that help, and connect people whowant to help with ways to do so,
and that's always going to be whowe are and so I hope that
people will take us up on thatthis year definitely and get involved definitely.

And Cleion, last question over toyou, you know, kind of looking
in that going off of that toget involved is you know, certainly it
seems like a lot of I alwaysask kind of what can our business community
do, and you guys highlighted alot of great things here. Is there
anything else too? Is just kindof you know next steps that businesses and
you know, individuals working for companiesyou know, really could say, hey,
this could be a great way tohave to us kind of you know,

get involved a lot of the greatone hundred happenings this year. Yeah,
so I talked a lot about sustainableindividual giving, but definitely don't want
to minimize the importance of our workplacegiving. Yes, we want to say
thank you for all of our greatpartners, but also encourage companies and individuals

to keep on doing the great workwith workplace giving and it's still a very
important part of our organization in additionto these new initiatives that we're approaching.
Definitely fantastic, Well, thank youboth so much. For being on and
congratulations on a successful kickoff and awonderful year ahead. Thank you of course,

of course, so for all thedetails about today's show, you can
visit Pulse Offtheregion dot com. Asalways, we would like to say thank
you to our show partner Okill,and last, but certainly not least,
thanks to you for listening. I'mKate Allman. Go out and make today
a good day here in Connecticut.
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