SPRINGFIELD – The Association For Community Living knows teamwork.|
Just look at the collaborative work it has done over the past 60 years to improve the lives of people with developmental disabilities and their families. And then look at the success the agency and its programs had on the inaugural Valley Gives Day on Dec. 12, 2012 raising just shy of $70,000.
One program of The Association, Whole Children in Hadley, which provides recreation and enrichment programs to children and teens, raised so much money – $44,582, from 661 donations – that it was awarded an additional $25,000 in grants offered by Valley Gives sponsors.
Whole Children took first place with the most number of unique donors among all 270 participating nonprofits on Valley Gives Day, and it also took second place for most money raised among small nonprofits.
"The Association For Community Living has been here for 60 years. The people that we help have powerful stories to tell, and Valley Gives tapped into our ability to tell them," Barbara Pilarcik, the agency's executive director, said. "The good news about The Association has travelled up and down the Valley as a result."
The Association could have registered for Valley Gives online as one agency, and the parent organization could then have dispersed funds received to its programs. But Pilarcik said that, in gearing up for Valley Gives, the agency intentionally decided to work together by creating a competition of sorts among agency programs for funds.
She said she hoped agency supporters and various program supporters would rise to the challenge of seeing the agency play as a team, and she is thrilled with the actual results. The agency itself raised roughly $6,000; Community Resources For People with Autism in Easthampton and Pittsfield raised $4,068; the Down Syndrome Resource Group of Pittsfield raised $302; and three other agency programs that had never attempted fundraising before each receiving at least one online gift.
"Each of the divisions worked hard to raise money," Pilarcik said. "It clearly says that they are able to mobilize and get their communities fired up. When you have people who are passionate about a cause that they believe in, they can really motivate and empower people."
Valle Dwight, communications manager for Whole Children, said she was astounded by the dollar amount her program raised. She said the success was in the grass-roots approach that had parents, staff, board members and other program supporters coming together to make phone calls, send emails, create and post videos of success stories and emphasize the program's message of good work.
Pilarcik said she was particularly impressed that one donor to Whole Children, who made a five-figure gift, doubled the amount when it became apparent that the program was in the running for a $15,000 challenge award.
"It generated so much excitement," Pilarcik said of Valley Gives participation. "It made our employees feel proud. It gave them a sense of pride that we are an organization that was seen by the community as worthy of giving its money to."
Pilarcik is grateful to the sponsors of Valley Gives for having the forethought to create the innovative event, and she looks forward to participating next year.
"It engenders a sense of community," she said.
The Association For Community Living has been creating opportunities, building relationships and improving lives of children and adults with developmental disabilities since 1952.
Founded by the dedicated commitment of five young mothers of children with developmental disabilities who held a strong belief that their children had the same right as all other children – the right to live and grow with dignity in their own communities – The Association continues their vision today. This year the organization will reach a milestone of 60 years of excellence and service.
The Association's beginnings were modest and deeply rooted in Hampden County. Today, its reach extends to all of Western Massachusetts and parts of Central Massachusetts, supporting 2,387 individuals with autism, Down syndrome, fragile X, and other developmental disabilities and 1,911 families in 102 cities and towns with offices in Springfield, Easthampton, Greenfield, Hadley, and Pittsfield.
The Association provides services that are many and varied, forming a continuum of support from infancy to old age with comprehensive services in five major areas – supported living, family services, employment services, social entrepreneurship, and recreation and enrichment – and are recognized as a well-managed, fiscally responsible nonprofit agency with a budget of $21.8 million.
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