On Jan. 24, Vassar’s Office of Communications announced that the College’s annual giving campaign, Community Works, exceeded its goal of raising $75,000 for local nonprofit organizations located in the Hudson Valley. This year’s Community Works campaign raised nearly $77,000, which will be disbursed to 10 local nonprofit organizations.
Organizations receiving grants include the Catherine Street Community Center, Community Family Development, GLSEN Hudson Valley, Hudson Valley House of Hope, Lucky Orphans Horse Rescue, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Literacy Connections, Scenic Hudson: Northside Community Greenway Project, Sparrow’s Nest and the Ulster Immigrant Defense Network.
The campaign began last October, when Community Works Campaign Chair Karen Getter announced, via the Vassar Community Works website (CommunityWorks.Vassar.edu), the 10 recipient organizations for the 2018 campaign. Getter’s announcement included a list of the recipients, which provides links to each recipient organization’s website.
In her announcement, Getter wrote, “When you contribute to Community Works you invest in compelling needs close to home—which may be experienced by our family members, friends, or neighbors, or even by a Vassar coworker.”
The Community Works Committee, composed of 18 members of Vassar’s faculty and staff, was responsible for choosing the recipient organizations as well as strategizing ways to raise money for those organizations. According to the Vassar Community Works website, the campaign gives to mostly small- and medium-sized nonprofit organizations located in the Mid-Hudson Valley area. In addition, recipient organizations must adhere to a 501(c)(3) legal status, indicating that an organization is a nonprofit public charity or trust.
The Committee selected specific community needs to be addressed by this year’s campaign: education and literacy, youth, the environment, domestic violence, immigrant services, LGBTQ services, legal services and animal welfare. According to Getter, individual recipient organizations were nominated by Vassar employees. “We sent out a survey, with simple questions, asking employees to nominate their favorite local charity,” Getter explained. “You can always have the same agencies receiving grants—those that are a staple in the community and already receiving recognition,” she elaborated. “We wanted a different set.”
Indeed, those selected for this year’s Community Works Campaign aren’t traditional charities. Chief Development Officer Tom Gabriel explained that his organization, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, is the only nonprofit of its kind in the Hudson Valley. According to Gabriel, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley provides comprehensive civil legal services to those who cannot normally afford them. Legal needs met by the organization include domestic violence, health care, consumer fraud and evictions and foreclosures.
Gabriel expressed gratitude and enthusiasm via email for being included among the 2018 Community Works recipients. He wrote, “We are truly honored to partner with the Vassar community to help our less fortunate and disadvantaged neighbors access the basic human needs that so many of us take for granted.” Per Gabriel, all of the funds raised through the Vassar Community Works Campaign will specifically benefit individuals who need civil legal support, particularly in Dutchess County.
Another one of the recipients, Sparrow’s Nest, was one of the most-nominated organizations on the list, according to Getter. Those at Sparrow’s Nest work to provide two homemade meals a week to families of caregivers and children diagnosed with cancer. Since 2012, Sparrow’s Nest has fed over 1,200 individuals.
As part of the campaign, Getter enlisted the help of two students, Adriana Ochoa ’20 and Viraj Nadkarni ’20. Nadkarni took it upon himself to get involved with Community Works. “I decided last summer that I wanted to get more involved in community service at Vassar,” Nadkarni explained. “I emailed Karen Getter and asked her how I could get involved.”
Nadkarni began attending the monthly Community Works Committee meetings, learning more about the campaign and the nonprofit organizations it would benefit. “I was surprised that the committee didn’t really feel the need to ask students for donations,” Nadkarni said. He began to provide input to the Committee on how to best reach students and then expanded his involvement by designing campaign posters and hanging them in various academic buildings.
Nadkarni’s greatest contribution to the Community Works Campaign, however, was his work on promotional videos, produced by the Committee for the recipient organizations. “I helped conduct interviews at the various organizations we wanted to promote,” Nadkarni explained. These interviews were edited together to help promote the nonprofits and to inform Vassar faculty, staff and students about the details of the recipient organizations, with the ultimate goal of inspiring faculty, staff, alumnae/i and students to donate to the campaign.
Nadkarni approached Ochoa, a friend of his, for help with the promotional videos. “They needed someone to help with editing the videos,” Ochoa said. Ochoa, who had more experience with video editing than Nadkarni, was happy to help the committee put together the videos.
Ochoa’s and Nadkarni’s roles didn’t end there. The students continue to be involved with the project, attending field trips and outreach programs to the various nonprofit organizations supported by the campaign, as well as actively encouraging Vassar community members to continue to donate to or even volunteer with these organizations.
Getter reflected on the success of the program, saying, “The campaign was a success because people pulled together what they had to do something great… It’s an exciting thing to work on because you know it’s really going to help people.”