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He wants more giving to help neighbors

Updated 11:15 pm, Tuesday, November 27, 2012
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United Way challenge To donate: Make checks payable to United Way of Western Connecticut, put Southern Litchfield County Council on the note line (to have the money help people in local towns), and mail to 85 West St., Danbury, CT 06810. Go to www.uwwesternct.org. Deadline is Dec. 31.
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NEW MILFORD -- Town resident Michael Gold has laid out a challenge. He wants people to help him raise $100,000 more than this year's United Way fund drive goal.

"We need to come together as a community and shore up the gap in funding that has expanded over this recession for crucial social service programs," said Gold, who sits on the Southern Litchfield County Council of the United Way of Western Connecticut.

While the economy slowly pulls out of a recession, many people still face a tough financial struggle.

Many others are finding themselves newly in need, said Kimberly Morgan, CEO of United Way of Western Connecticut.

"There are real people in our community who have never experienced the difficulties they are facing today," Morgan said. "And this growing population overlays the people who have always been in need of services."

As many as 15 percent of families in New Milford are considered working poor, she added.

Last year on the United Way's 211 phone line received 1,669 requests for services from the seven towns in southern Litchfield County.

The requests involved everything from utility problems to information on food pantries and health care.

More than 1,200 calls came just from New Milford residents, according to United Way statistics.

Another 148 calls came from Washington, while 101 came from Kent. Smaller numbers came from Roxbury, Bridgewater, Sherman and Warren.

"Sitting on the council, I see funding coming to our social service programs falling short. That's funding coming from everywhere (all sources)," Gold said.

"I'll look under every rock, behind every tree, meet with every group," he said. "It's our responsibility to help our neighbors."

Peg Molina, New Milford director of social services, said Monday, "It doesn't seem to be getting worse, but it's no better than it was. And funding is drying up."

"Energy assistance funding has been cut 35 percent from what it was in the previous year," she added. "We're providing services but with difficulty."

Molina noted people are finding work, but it is typically in low-paying jobs with few or no benefits.

United Way helps provide crucial social service programs that form a safety net for these families, Morgan said.

"We had superstorm Sandy and, yes, it's awful what happened to people in the city and along the coast. But we have neighbors in need right here," Gold said.

Gold envisions a grass-roots effort of people banding with others in their circle of friends, neighbors and colleagues. He asks residents to canvas small businesses, asking them to increase their contributions.

Make checks payable to United Way of Western Connecticut, put Southern Litchfield County Council and mail to 85 West St., Danbury, CT 06810, or go to www.uwwesternct.org. Donation deadline is Dec. 31.