President Joel Seligman recently began a campaign to raise money for the Greater Rochester United Way/Red Cross. In 2005, after donations from thousands of university faculty, staff and retirees, as well as employees from the Highland Hospital and the Visiting Nurse Service raised $1,152,234 for the organization which helps to make long-term changes in the Rochester area. This year, United Way has set a goal to raise $35.5 million, which will assist over 150 agencies and 600,000 people.

“Throughout my academic career, I have always supported United Way because it in turn provides support to so many important and caring organizations in the communities in which I lived,” Seligman said. “I made a commitment to United Way/Red Cross after I moved to Rochester as soon as the opportunity presented itself.”

In the Greater Rochester area, United Way helps children get ready for success in school, supports local families, ensures that neighborhoods are safe, helps senior citizens and those with disabilities.

“There’s no question the needs in our community are complex,” United Way of Greater Rochester Marketing Communications Director Nancy Zawacki said. “Some people see us primarily as a fundraiser – but we’re so much more. United Way ensures best-practice programs are available in our community, helping those who need it most. We listen to community needs and collaborate with local providers to make sure our greatest challenges are being addressed through innovative solutions.”

In 2005, eight UR sponsored programs received $1.2 million in funding from United Way. Those programs are run by the Mount Hope Family Center, the Children’s Institute, Meals on Wheels, Strong Memorial Hospital and Visiting Nurse Service. 305 UR employees received United Way-funded services last year.

“Many of the patients seen at the medical center rely on the programs and services funded by the United Way both before and after receiving care,” Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer at the Center for Community Health Andrea Lennon said.

Last year UR saw 34 percent participation rate among faculty and staff and 17 percent among UR retirees.

“I hope we can do even better this year,” Seligman said. “We have more employees and we are now the leading employer in town which perhaps underlines our social responsibilities.”

UR joins many other private universities including Duke University in supporting United Way.

“We feel it is our obligation as the largest employer in Rochester to ensure we generate enough support to sustain the programs in the community that are funded through the annual United Way campaign,” Lennon said. “We are hoping to have students participate by considering fundraising activities and designating United Way as the recipient.”

Beyond the support that UR receives from United Way, the two have a long history together.

“Just as George Eastman played a critical role in the development of the University of Rochester, he did so for United Way,” Zawacki said.

In 1918, Eastman started the Rochester Patriotic and Community Fund, which eventually became the Community Chest and then, in 1973, was renamed as United Way of Greater Rochester. The building where United Way currently operates was the first building erected on UR’s Prince Street Campus, before the male students moved onto the River Campus. After this move, the building remained the College for Women until 1955.

“At United Way, we are so grateful for the generous support from UR,” Zawacki said. “UR is a cornerstone of our community, and continues to make an incredible difference here, one that ensures the continual growth and development of the Greater Rochester region, for all who live here.”

Continuing, she said, “There are many ways students can get involved in helping United Way. Helping United Way is an easy and rewarding way to give back to the community and to help those who need it most. Any amount makes a big difference, and is put to work year-round.”Paret can be reached at

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