John's Story

Spend an hour with John Nitanga and you'll be inspired. His family survived the genocide in Rwanda and spent 13 years in a refugee camp in Tanzania. After enduring deplorable conditions, John's family had the opportunity to come to the United States. Arriving here as a young student, John had never spoke English before. Soon, he enrolled in the Bring It! program that he credits with changing his life. He learned the English language, benefited from the specialized program for refugees and excelled in soccer.

After graduating from high school and becoming a United States citizen he became a Loaned Executive for Granite United Way. "I am happy to give back to the community that gave me so much," said John. "There are many stories like mine. I want to make sure there is access to programs and services so that other young people have the opportunity I did."

He's not showing any signs of stopping. This fall he's enrolled to obtain his Bachelor's degree at Southern New Hampshire University. We can't wait to see how bright John's future will be.


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Sabrina's Story

Sometimes Sabrina Gingras looks back at her younger self and cannot even recognize that person. This accomplished mother of two was once a young teenager who was heading down a dark path.

Following a series of poor choices and running with a group of friends misusing drugs and alcohol, Sabrina had found herself expelled from high school. Her family rallied and enrolled her in an alternative high school to ensure her education continued. There she was separated from the toxic environment and began to thrive with the programs and resources available to her.  Eventually, she reintegrated into Concord High School and graduated with her peers.
“There is a serious epidemic of substance misuse in our young people,” said Sabrina. “Since I’ve graduated there have been six deaths in our class. It’s devastating and makes me grateful that my family and community were there for me. I cannot imagine missing out on the life I have now.”
Sabrina continued to challenge herself after high school and graduated from New England College with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and Child Development. In addition to her schoolwork she volunteered at several local non profits including the Live & Let Live farm and the Boys & Girls Club of Concord. She also served as a Loaned Executive for Granite United Way.
“These are some of the programs that helped me get through high school and I wanted to give back. I still keep in touch with the teachers and directors who helped change the trajectory of my life,” said Sabrina. “I’m proof that you can overcome anything. And when you do, it’s time to give back so others can have the same opportunity to change that I did.”

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Leader in Me Program

Gossler Park Elementary School Principal, Lori Upham, started receiving some unusual calls from parents last fall when the “Leader in Me” program was initiated at her school.

“They wanted to know what was causing their children to do their homework, help put away dishes, and clean their rooms without being asked,” said Upham. “It’s incredible what this program has awakened in these students – a sense of pride and ownership of their actions.”

The program is based on Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and was implemented at the Gossler Park Elementary School in partnership with the City of Manchester Health Department through the Neighborhood Health Improvement Strategy (NHIS), funded in part by Granite United Way and other local and national sources.

“Dovetail Leadership,” a similar program that establishes leadership skills, was implemented at the Beech Street School this fall. Both schools are Community Schools as part of the Manchester Community Schools Project. The NHIS has also brought other support into the school community like parenting courses and the “Hi-SET” program, a high school equivalency test. Four adults have successfully completed this program, and twenty more are in the process of it.

The Manchester’s Neighborhood Health Improvement Strategy continues to garner the attention of national funders, including playing a key role in Manchester’s recognition as a recipient of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health Prize.

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A Volunteer Story: Pastor Shannon Keeney

Senior Pastor Shannon Diana Keeney of First United Methodist Church in Littleton, NH views Granite United Way as “one of those organizations that stands out as a positive force in our communities.” She sees United Way as the backbone of many non-profits.
“As a clergy, I notice that Granite United Way has taken some of the roles the church used to hold and has become a place of refuge and support. Today is a different, complex world, and we need so many entry points to address the overwhelming obstacles people face. Addiction, poverty, illiteracy, the list can be overwhelming, but United Way is about more than surviving, it is about thriving. The very name "United Way" reminds us we cannot make our neighborhoods better on our own; we need each other to thrive.”
Pastor Shannon began her journey with United Way by volunteering. When serving on the Board of the Littleton Chamber of Commerce, Pastor Shannon heard an engaging presentation by a local United Way representative. Upon learning about United Way's work, Pastor Shannon realized that she wanted to be a part of its mission to bring hope to the North Country.

Pastor Shannon’s volunteer experience with United Way furthered her understanding of the network of social systems in our communities. “Sometimes as a leader of a care organization you forget you aren’t in this alone. Granite United Way says ‘let us help you’, which can be a shock to a non-profit. United Way has, once again, reminded me that we are parts of a body and it isn’t our job to ‘save everyone’ but together we can ‘help quite a few.’”
Working on Granite United Way's Upper Valley CIC has brought much joy to Pastor Shannon. “To be able to give money instead of always seeking money is refreshing. It is so soul nurturing to listen to how people and groups are giving back and to say ‘yes, we need to help fund their cause.’ The CIC allows the other board members and me to share in the joy.”
“United Way isn’t afraid of being positive. There are too many groups which send people away and it is nice to see a team that welcomes them in.”


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Madisen's Story

Together we are saving lives. Madisen Peterson had no idea how his life was about to change in October 2016 when he made the choice to walk into the Manchester Central Fire Station for substance misuse treatment through the Safe Station program, an innovative concept launched in Manchester that enables individuals facing addiction to enter any fire station in the city and immediately access treatment services.

Madisen first started experimenting with alcohol and marijuana at the age of fourteen. During high school, peer pressure led to experimenting with more drugs like cocaine, opiates, and eventually, heroin. “When you’re a teenager you want to try everything once,” said Madisen. “But once is too many.”

For the next six years, Madisen struggled with heroin. Retreating from friends and family, he sold his most valuable possessions, and became a person he no longer recognized. After learning about the Safe Station program through social media, his mother offered to drive him to the fire house. Through this program, his life
changed when he entered Serenity Place, a partner agency offering treatment and recovery services.

“If it weren’t for the Safe Station program, I don’t know where I would be today,” said Madisen. “Now I am working at Serenity Place and am able to help others make the same positive changes I have. It saved my life.”

Unfortunately, Madisen’s story is not unique. Granite United Way serves as the lead for three out of the thirteen Regional Public Health Networks in New Hampshire, including the Capital Area Public Health Network, the Carroll County Coalition for Public Health, and the South Central Public Health Network. Through these
networks, we serve 54 communities and reach over 600 New Hampshire residents annually. We are supporting the development of a robust continuum of care to provide access to prevention, treatment, and recovery.

View Madisen's video success story here.

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Charlie Head: The importance of Giving Back

Charlie Head, a new Granite United Way donor, and Board Member heard about United Way through the Leadership NH Class of 2017. Charlie attended the class along with a Granite United Way employee and was impressed by what he learned about the mission. Charlie appreciated the comprehensive approach Granite United Way demonstrated, and that resources are directed to areas of critical need with a big picture view. “In this way, it seems that United Way can leverage its position to do the greatest good,” said Charlie.
It was a simple choice for Charlie to join our Board of Directors because of the opportunity to get involved at a high level and make an impact. Charlie is passionate about giving to nonprofits like Granite United Way because the need is so great. “My experience with Leadership NH only opened my eyes more to the scale of need and the positive impact that the right kind of giving can have on the lives of so many,” he said.
Charlie wants others to know that “the United Way allows us to give, but more importantly, it allows us to cultivate a spirit of gratitude.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: ‘In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.’ ”
In the upcoming years, Charlie expects his company, Sanborn, Head and Associates, to become more involved with Granite United Way. He is “impressed by the commitment – actually the passion – [he has] seen by both staff and board members so far. You can just feel it.”


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HealthFirst Family Care Center: A Partner Agency

Rick Silverberg of HealthFirst Family Care Center, a long time partner agency of Granite United Way, is a passionate donor and advocate for our mission. Rick has a long history of supporting United Way in the Central Region and has always believed that we can do more together than we can individually.
“I grew up in a blue-collar industrial city in Connecticut where the United Way helped to fund much-needed services for my family, our neighbors, and our friends, proving to be a pillar of the community,” said Rick.
His father worked for an agency that received funding from United Way and was on their local Board of Directors. Fresh out of graduate school, Rick continued the family tradition by working for United Way-funded agencies, joining local committees, and eventually working for the United Way of Greater New Haven, Connecticut. When Rick moved to New Hampshire in 1980, he became involved with United Way projects, first in Merrimack County and then in the Lakes Region.
Rick’s advocacy for Granite United Way also takes place inside the very organization he works for. He is proud to say that HealthFirst Family Care Center has been a United Way partner since their inception twenty-three years ago. “Our organization has been part of several large-scale United Way initiatives and at present, it partners with the United Way in the delivery of expanded substance misuse disorder and behavioral health services.”
Even as a small employer, with a staff of 54, HealthFirst Family Care Center runs a workplace campaign. “Our staff see the needs of the individuals in the community, and we know that they largely benefit from United Way-funded services,” said Rick. “Together, HealthFirst, Granite United Way, and other funded partners positively impact the Lakes Region and communities like it.”





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Denis Gagne: Granite United Way is Valuable to our Community

Denis Gagne, United Way donor and Loyal Contributor (donors who have contributed to United Way for 10 or more years) started giving to United Way back in the 80's. “When I started my job at the Gorham NH, Paper Mill I donated because it was the right thing to do and I could,” he said.
Denis continues to donate to this day because he has seen firsthand how United Way changes people lives. “Five years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. I was very fortunate that I have a loving wife and family and work for Gorham Paper and Tissue, all of whom supported me through my operation and treatments. Through all of this, I have met many people who were not as fortunate. Thanks to the United Way and other charitable organizations, they were able to get to their appointments, receive counseling, and get that feeling that people do care.”
During the 2017 Granite United Way Campaign, Denis participated as a donor in the "Get on the Bus" New Business Challenge (Mark and Sally Stebbins, the owners of PROCON, are offering a $25,000 Challenge Match to engage new businesses with United Way. They are also providing each new company with 2 tickets to a New England Patriots home game in the fall of 2018, complete with complimentary bus transportation, and a private reception at Gillette Stadium.)  and won two tickets to a New England Patriots game. Recently, Denis shared that he is two years cancer-free and continues to support Granite United Way’s efforts in his local community.


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The Reilly Family

With the headlines focused on alarming numbers of individuals overdosing in their community, combined with their own personal family tragedy, Joe and Venetia Reilly turned to Granite United Way to see where they could help.

As long-time Alexis de Tocqueville supporters of Granite United Way, the pair were familiar with the way the organization brought together the right teams to solve complex community issues.

“We knew this was the time we could expand our giving and really contribute to some of the positive work being done to promote prevention of substance misuse,” said Joe. “After losing my nephew to an overdose, and then my sister to the grief that resulted from that, Venetia and I wanted to make sure there was access to prevention and treatment programs.”

One of the areas the Reilly’s $100,000 gift is invested in is Safe Station, the life-saving concept launched in Manchester and also featured in the city’s Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize. The program is also complemented by 2-1-1NH, where callers can be directly connected with treatment. Their gift also concentrates on prevention, helping to establish several new permanent drop boxes for expired medications and educational programs in the local school system.

“Supporters like Joe and Venetia Reilly are helping us change and save lives every single day,” said Manchester Fire Chief Daniel Goonan. “We have had more than 2,000 walk through the doors since we started this program. It shows how we can make a change by working together.”

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Rachel's Story

Mascoma Savings Bank employee, Rachel Lazar, found herself and her family in a financial crisis when her husband lost employment earlier this year. She didn’t have to look far for help since Angel Hudson from Granite United Way’s Working Bridges program in the Upper Valley was making office visits to her branch as an in-house resource.

“When I met with Angel I was in such a state of crisis. We have an infant son and just bought our home. I wasn’t sure how we would manage,” said Rachel. “Her calmness was reassuring and I felt a huge weight lifted. She helped us navigate through our situation and even helped my husband find a new job.”

Angel Hudson and Prudence Pease are the “faces” of Granite United Way’s Working Bridges program, an employer collaborative convened by United Way dedicated to improving workplace productivity, retention, advancement, and financial stability for employees. On average, they see more than 130 clients each month. By minimizing employment barriers and maximizing supports, the program gives employees the tools they need to be successful. The program has recently expanded to ten companies: Alice Peck Day, Hypertherm, Kendal at Hanover, King Arthur Flour, Simon Pearce, Coop Food Stores, Dartmouth College, Mascoma Savings Bank, Mount Ascutney Hospital, and Timken.

“Working Bridges offers Mascoma Savings Bank employees critical resources to reduce instability in their home lives – making their lives better and making it easier to bring their best selves to their work,” said Clay Adams, CEO of Mascoma Savings Bank. “Granite United Way’s Working Bridges Program is a valuable resource to Upper Valley employers and employees.”

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A Financial Coach for the Upper Valley

One of the most powerful roles Granite United Way plays is as a convener – and some of the work we are doing in the Upper Valley is a great example of that. For the past year, financially vulnerable clients at four Upper Valley nonprofits – LISTEN Community Services, Twin Pines Housing Trust, Upper Valley Haven, and WISE – have had access to a financial coach, courtesy of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB.)

Suzanne Stofflet, Senior Director of Community Impact at Granite United Way, initially saw this federal program as a collaborative opportunity and worked with the four nonprofits to apply for the coach. The Upper Valley group is one of sixty diverse partner organizations, and the only collaboration that was selected to host a financial coach.

Megan Sather is a trained financial professional who serves as the area’s financial coach. She offers clients the opportunity to sit with her and receive customized guidance that is tailored to each individual’s unique situation.

“As a result of this guidance, we are seeing clients achieve stable housing; many for the first time in their lives. This program is without a doubt a success.” said Kyle Fisher, Administrative Director of LISTEN Community Services.

The synergy from this effort can be seen in the results. To date, 65% of clients have improved their financial capability and 99% are actively pursuing or have completed their individual goals. The Upper Valley program has proven to be one of the most successful in the nation.

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Melissa's Story

Click here to view Melissa's success story!

When it came time for Melissa to purchase her first home she did everything right to make sure it was a solid investment. Unfortunately, she found herself in a bad relationship that nearly caused her to lose her new home. After speaking to a 2-1-1 NH call specialist, Melissa was connected to Home Help NH and the legal resources she needed to get back on track. Thanks to the help she received from 2-1-1 NH, Melissa sent in the final loan modification payment on August 31, 2017, and was able to save her home.

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Donna Tighe: The Importance of Volunteering

Donna Tighe, a volunteer and a new Southern Region Community Impact Committee (CIC) member, was first introduced to Granite United Way 29 years ago. As the Director of a new program in Derry, Donna met the CEO of Parkland Medical Center, who introduced her to the local United Way. One conversation led to another and Donna was encouraged to apply for funding. “That $2,500 grant was the first step in a decade’s long journey with United Way,” said Donna.
In 2015, Donna was invited to become more involved with United Way as a volunteer on the local CIC. She decided it would be interesting to gain a different perspective on how United Way operated.
Donna’s volunteer experience has changed everything about how she now thinks of a grant applicant and recipient. “The work of a CIC volunteer is grueling. The requests far outweigh the available resources, despite often compelling proposals, and each CIC member struggles with the decision-making process because we all know that not everyone will get what they have asked for or need,” said Donna. “It has been an eye-opening experience for me.”
As an agency director, Donna finds that she is more charitable in her own life and within her agency because she has seen first-hand what generous people can do. “Volunteering is outside of a comfort zone for some people because it is a commitment, but I encourage anyone to try it and see how they feel about themselves after the fact.” 
United Way has offered a path for Donna’s agency to break new ground, learn new ways of doing business, and become responsible caretakers of donated resources.  Donna credits the leadership and support of Granite United Way for involving her and her organization in the South Central Public Health Network a collaborative group providing leadership for the Public Health Advisory Council.

“I consider it an honor to have the opportunity to be a part of the change in public health in NH, and potentially improve the health status and well-being of residents in this region."


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Windsor Connection Resource Center Provides Family Winter Aid

Any New Englander knows that winter can be a time of hardship, and The Windsor Connection Resource Center in Windsor, VT, has helped many get through the difficult season. The Resource Center’s goal is to connect the Windsor, VT community and its residents to the wide variety of social and state agency services available. It strives to increase access to health, social, and educational services at the local level by addressing homelessness, housing, and hunger on the community level. In addition to their information and referral services, they rent out conference rooms and provide computers, phones, copy and fax machines to the public.
This past winter, Amanda* and her family found themselves visiting the Resource Center’s Giving Room (a room in the center that houses donated clothes) in search of warmer clothes. Amanda recalls a conversation she had with one of the employees that encouraged her to become a frequent visitor.
“This person listened to my story. I was able to build trust with her. Every week I came by, sometimes just to talk and share my concerns or if I was upset about something. She always took time to listen, and if she was busy helping others she would tell me when to come back.” 
The Windsor Connection Resource Center not only helped Amanda find emotional support but also supplied her with the winter boots she desperately needed. “They would write down what was needed and ask my sizes. I walk everywhere, even to get my groceries. I needed men’s size 13 boots. [and] another time I came in and there were boots for me. It wasn’t long and I showed up one day and there was a huge fleece sweatshirt for me. I felt like it was Christmas all over again. I wish that more people knew how many ways that the Windsor Connection Resource Center can help you. [It] may not happen in a week, but let me tell you they figure out a way and get it done.”
*Name has been changed to remain anonymous.


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