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United Way celebrates nearly $36 million campaign; focusing now on 2023

A skyline view of Rochester
Max Schulte
Downtown Rochester.

The United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes is celebrating what they were able to do with last year’s campaign, while also launching the fundraising effort for 2023.

Jaime Saunders, who is president and CEO of the nonprofit that now covers six counties, said that as government aid given during the peak of the pandemic pulls back, the need for the United Way’s services continues to grow.

Saunders said that help from the United Way is crucial for many local agencies.

“To be able to support food access, transportation, housing, shelter, safety from violence,” said Saunders. “All of that is coming to a head in terms of the needs that are continuing to grow.”

The local United Way collected a total of $35.8 million last year, including $17.9 million through its annual campaign, and Saunders said they’re hoping to get at least that much in the coming year.

Besides the traditional contributions and payroll deductions, the United Way also gets funding from community grants, the ROC the Day effort and other donations.

Saunders emphasized the power of many supporters help them reach their goal, noting that the average donor gives two dollars a week.

Saunders sounds optimistic about meeting this year’s goal, and she pointed to the generosity of their local supporters.

“We also know that when it feels like the chips are down, people rally,” said Saunders. “So even back in COVID times when the businesses had shut down, those who ran United Way campaigns, their employees gave more.”

Jim Reed, the president and CEO of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield is this year’s campaign chair.

For the 2023 campaign, all new and increased donations to the United Way’s Community Impact Fund will be matched, up to a total of $100,000, with a challenge grant from Excellus.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.