Local United Way activists celebrate merger with statewide organization, launch poverty reduction initiative

MEREDITH — The name was different but the spirit in the room was the same as, what was until the start of this year, the Lakes Region United Way, held its 56th annual celebration yesterday at Church Landing .
It was the organization's first meeting as the Granite United Way – Central New Hampshire region and Mark Primeau, who as chairman of the board of directors of the Lakes Region United Way had taken part in the process which led to the merger with Granite United Way, said that the action taken by the local United Way was ''bold, visionary and unselfish'' and had helped create a situation in which local efforts would be more efficient and more effective.
''We were inspired over the last year as we went through the merger process and saw that incredible spirit of volunteerism,'' said Primeau.
He noted that the region raised $1.2 million in its 2012-2013 campaign, nearly matching its record total of the previous year, and that those funds will support a variety of programs and community partnerships.
As part of the merger Primeau and three of his fellow directors joined the board of Granite United Way. which over the last three years has merged with six other regional United Ways to form an organization which covers virtually all of New Hampshire.
Granite United Way was formed in July, 2010 with the merger of Heritage United Way of Manchester, United Way of Merrimack County of Concord, Upper Valley United Way of Lebanon and North County United Way of Littleton. Last year United Way of Northern New Hampshire of Berlin joined the group and Lakes Region United Way joined earlier this year.
Patrick Tufts, chief executive officer of Granite United Way, said that each of these alliances have produced positive outcomes and said that one of the organization's guiding principles is that ''we know how important local decision making is.''
Jack Terrill, former LRUW president, who is now senior vice president for community impact of the Central New Hampshire Region, said that the local focus will continue to be working on programs that reduce poverty with a goal of a 20 percent reduction by 2020.
He noted that the annual fund drive has progressed from $480,000 in 2003 to over $1.2 million this year and that many new organizations which are contributing to community building efforts have come on the scene in recent years.
Featured speaker at the event was Liz Weaver, vice president of the Tamarack Institute, which works to promote community engagement and vibrant communities in Canada who described how the collective impact of collaborating institutions can produce social change.
Winners of major annual awards were announced at the meeting.
The Sara Allen Award, an honor given to an agency or initiative that takes important steps to either ensure their services are sustainable or enhance the effectiveness of those services, was awarded to the Pemi Youth Center, an after school destination for youths aged 10-17 in the Plymouth area. Other nominees were the Family Resource Center of Central New Hampshire and the Bearcamp Valley School and Children's Center.
The Nighswander-Chertok Award, which acknowledges an organization for fundraising campaign design excellence and development of a giving culture that utilizes best practices to encourage individual and corporate community investment, was presented to the Bank of New Hampshire. Also honored were LRGHealthcare, which over the last 10 years has raised over $1 million in the annual United Way fund drives, and Pike Industries, which has raised its employee giving from $6,700 five years ago to over $68,000 this year.
Christian Zimmerman, Pike CEO, said that his company now employs 400 people and that he hopes within the not too distant future that he will be employing 500 people and that employee giving will top $100,000.
Also nominated for outstanding campaigns were Megaprint, which in its second year increased giving by 55 percent; Hannaford Supermarkets, which showed a 22 percent increase; Laconia High School, a 31 percent increase, and Taylor Community, a 37 percent increase.
The Captain Ralph B. Bristol Award for outstanding volunteer of the year was presented to Mike Persson, a patent attorney from Laconia who has played an active role with many local non-profits. Persson heads the Financial Stability Partnership, a major United Way initiative, and has served as chairman of the Belknap Economic Development Council and is a member of the Laconia School Board.
He is also active with Lakes Region Listens, is on the board of directors of the Salvation Army and has served with the Lakes Region Community College advisory board.

Laconia attorney Mike Persson, center, is presented with the Captain Ralph Bristol Award as outstanding volunteer by Alan Robichaud, second from right, of the Granite United Way-Central New Hampshire Region at the organization's annual celebration held at Church Landing in Meredith Tuesday. With Persson are his wife, Clare, left, and daughters, Kate, second from left, and Alana, right. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)