November 05, 2015

Just when you thought you knew everything about a United Way campaign, the Office of Human Resources has decided to kick it up a notch. This year’s campaign aims to raise $40,000 over six weeks, and is adding in enough variety to help meet or beat this year’s 35 percent participation goal.

Kicking off on Nov. 9, the campaign is bringing back one of the staff’s favorite ways to raise money for the United Way of Central Massachusetts. Casual Fridays, where employees can donate money to wear jeans on the last day of the work week, will now cover all five Fridays. In previous years, only one or two Fridays were included, but the event is so popular that this year employees can donate $20 to wear jeans on all five days or they can play it week by week and donate $5 for each Friday they choose.

Why is United Way so important for the WPI community? “Because lots of these places are near us and a lot of people in our community have been helped by United Way,” says campaign coordinator Melissa Luzzo, a human resources generalist and HRIS analyst at WPI. “They are our neighbors and it’s important for us to be part of it.”

According to Phil Wettengel, vice president of relationship management and development at United Way of Central Massachusetts, some 66,000 people received direct services from the organization last year. Working with organizations in the community like WPI helps with financial and volunteer support, he says. “It is our main way of raising funds for our community,” he says. “It’s all these people clicking together and working with us.”

In addition to WPI’s Casual Friday fundraiser, another favorite, the Bake-Off, will run on Friday, Nov. 20, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Last year, 21 bakers donated goodies ranging from the popular Oreo bark to cupcakes to mini-Oreo cheesecakes or even moose tracks cookies. “People really enjoy the Bake-Off,” says Luzzo. “People can buy a plate and take tastes or they can have a container and fill it up to bring it home or back to their office.”

And if you’ve ever wondered what special talents your colleagues might be hiding, the WPI’s Got Talent competition is a great time to find out, says Luzzo. When employees caught wind of a department holding a similar contest recently and wanted to see what it was all about, Luzzo realized it would be a fun addition to the United Way campaign. Who can enter the competition? Anyone, says Luzzo. That means you can stun your co-workers with your Irish step dance finesse or your department can impress everyone with their great harmonizing. This is a great opportunity to have fun with your colleagues or show off your long-honed talent that people rave about.


The campaign also includes a silent auction twist that proved so successful last year. With donated trips, items, gift cards, services, or even a night out, the silent auction part of the campaign stands to help nudge the campaign close to its goal. Instead of having a physical silent auction room where all the goods are set up, last year’s committee experimented with having the auction online. Bidders can go online when it’s convenient for them, check out the goods, and enter an anonymous bid. “It’s a little like eBay,” says Luzzo. “A lot of people who had not participated before, did it because it was online.”

And last year’s raffle of a prime parking spot (hopefully near the winner’s office) and lunch with President Leshin will be offered over two separate raffles, so ticket buys can know exactly what they are buying tickets for.

“United Way is providing people the resources they need,” says Luzzo. “It’s tough out there and we know it. Every dollar does count.” Money donated goes to 40 local agencies who use the funds for more than 70 health and human services programs. More than 82 percent of the donations are funneled back into the community or local service programs, according to the United Way. Services include helping homeless people move into housing, bringing meals to home-bound seniors, helping low- and moderate-income families save money on food and prescriptions, and assisting victims of domestic violence.

If you have goods or services you would like to donate to the Bake-Off or to the silent auction, contact Luzzo at