Wesleyan will again help build a stronger, healthier Middlesex County during the Middlesex United Ways annual Community Campaign. The campaign kicked off Oct. 6 at the Presidents House.
This years goal is $140,000, which is $5,000 more than last years goal.
For more than 60 years, the Wesleyan community has supported the local United Way. Its Core Services provides funding to 32 local programs and services offered by its 23 partner agencies. These include the American Red Cross, 2-1-1 Infoline; Middlesex Hospital Family, Advocacy Program; Middlesex Hospital Homecare; Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters; Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater; Salvation Army of Middletown, among others.
This year Middlesex United Way is supporting a new initiative called Community Impact, which is designed to target root causes of chronic community problems that are hurting families. Community Impact programs include housing, mental health and substance abuse programs.
Just feeding a hungry family isnt enough, explains John Biddiscombe, adjunct professor of Physical Education, director of Athletics and chair of the Physical Education Department. We want to address the reason why a family goes hungry in the first place.
Biddiscombe served as president of the Middlesex United Way for two years, vice president for two years and on the organizations executive committee for seven years.
Kevin Wilhelm, Middlesex United Ways executive director, explained that local needs assessment results, input from residents, and calls to Connecticut’s 2-1-1 Infoline show that housing, mental health and substance abuse rank as top concerns of county residents.
“Middlesex United Way has traditionally served local residents by funding non-profit agencies that provide critical human care services,” says Wilhelm. “We are also being more proactive in our approach and funding community projects that reach more residents and address what they tell us is of top concern to them.”
The substance abuse initiative focuses on reducing and preventing substance abuse among sixth to 12th graders through Healthy Communities-Healthy Youth. In a recent survey of Connecticut ninth and 10th graders, 36 percent reported using marijuana, 28 percent reported binge drinking in the past month, and 24 percent reported being regular smokers. United Way focuses on school and home-based prevention programs for school-aged children and their families.
The improved mental health initiative focus on early identification and intervention of children birth to 5-years-old with social and emotional problems so that more children enter school ready to learn. About 24 percent of Connecticut high school students indicated on a recent survey that they have seriously considered suicide.
The housing initiative focus is on affordable housing along Connecticuts shoreline, specifically to develop affordable housing units for working families currently living in motels. Forty percent of Middlesex Countys homeless are dependent children.
Last year, Wesleyan raised a record-breaking $140,018, 6.5 percent of Middlesex United Ways total.
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor