TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—United Way of Tompkins County announced its 2022–23 campaign goal of $1.8 million at a kickoff event on Sept. 23.

Gail Belokur, interim CEO, and Scott Keenan, UWTC board chair, presented a $3,000 check to Joannie Barber, a full-time volunteer at local food pantries, for pantries around the county in honor of the Day of Caring.

From left, Keenan, Barber and Belokur. (Photo by Zoe Freer-Hessler)

“It’s our distinct pleasure to honor Joannie and to thank her for all her work, we are presenting a check for $3,000 toward your cause,” Keenan said. “Joannie benefits our community in ways I cannot even begin to measure.”

Last month, Barber said that she served over a thousand individuals with donations. “Every food distribution is different […] things go a long, long way, and we’re touching many lives.”

“Give, advocate, volunteer. That’s what we have been for many years — what our call of action has been for many years. You’re going to hear a lot more this year about advocacy and volunteerism,” Belokur said. “In advocacy, we all need to do our part — everyone needs an equal and accessible part.”

Co-chairing this year’s campaign are City of Ithaca Alderperson Ducson Nguyen and Deb Mohlenhoff, former Ithaca alderperson and current associate vice president for college relations at Tompkins Cortland Community College.

Leading up to the announcement of this year’s goal, which has the theme of new donors, Nguyen said that “The united way has long had a huge role in improving our community, and 100% of your donations go to community needs.”

Mohlenhoff said that one of the reasons she’s most excited about cochairing the campaign is because “What I heard was really needed was cultivation of new networks and new friendships and new partnerships. We have an incredible long-standing donor base who have always supported us, but there are lots of new community members and new faces and new people.”

Mohlenhoff also said that the volunteer base helps decide where funds go — “those people are really having a significant impact on others.”

Ducson and Mohlenhoff shared fun facts about themselves: they are fans of craft cocktails and coffee, respectively. “We want to raise the equivalent of 150,000 craft cocktails,” Nguyen said with a laugh.

“If we were to frame our goal in local lattes, […] that would be 300,000 local lattes. If we each gave up one of these a week, we would be well on our goal of $1.8 million,” Mohlenhoff announced.

The 2021–22 campaign received a total of $1,767,188 with donations from the Community Care Fund, donor gifts for programming, student engagement programs, COVID recovery, specific agency donations and corporate cornerstone partners, among others.

UWTC is hosting several events this coming fall. The Student Kindness and Creativity Contest is currently accepting submissions for the gallery event, which will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 28, at United Way on 313 N. Aurora Street.

UWTC’s Day of Giving occurs all day online Nov. 16 and will be followed by celebrations held at Monks on the Commons with Nguyen and Mohlenhoff bartending from 5 to 7 p.m. on Nov. 16.

Update: This article has been updated with new event details regarding the Student Kindness and Creativity Contest. This article also previously listed Belokur as the chief operating officer.

Zoë Freer-Hessler is the digital editor/reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Joining in November 2021, she has covered a wide range of topics related to local news. She can be reached at,...