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Thursday, 18 February 2016 17:18

A Brighter Day For Blue

Code Blue Partnership with United Way Announced

 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Always nice to report progress - particularly when the community and its leadership come together to solve a problem. Three weeks ago (Issue dated January 29), we reported that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, in requiring local shelters to be in operation when the temperature reaches 32 degrees or below, issued an unfunded mandate, Executive Order 151. 

 

The City of Saratoga Springs’ Code Blue Shelter had its “triggering” temperature at 20 degrees - a benchmark that has been used by many similar organizations throughout the state. The Code Blue Shelter, which is operated by Shelters of Saratoga at the Salvation Army on Woodlawn Avenue had not been resisting the State mandate, but was struggling to secure the funds it would need to operate for the many extra nights this would involve, as well as volunteers to work at the facility. Shelters of Saratoga’s (SOS) Executive Director Mike Finocchi had estimated that it would take an estimated $32,000 to make up the cost difference. 

 

All this changed, and for the better, on Tuesday, February 16, when Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen announced the formation of a partnership between the City of Saratoga Springs and the United Way of the Greater Capital Region (UWGCR) to benefit Code Blue. A drive has been launched to raise the necessary $32,000, and UWGCR President and CEO Brian Hassett was on hand to present Code Blue for the first $8,000 on Tuesday. 

 

“This is why we exist,” Hassett stated. “We have four platforms that we focus on and one is basic needs – food, shelter, safety. We’ve been working in the community for 90 years and when there is a need or a problem, we’re here. We are the friend you can call in the middle of the night.” 

 

Mayor Yepsen, who was instrumental in establishing the city’s Code Blue facility just prior to taking office in 2014, stated that the eventual goal is to have a year-round operational emergency shelter. This phase and the campaign to raise the funds for the goal of having Code Blue open every winter evening when the temperature drops to 32 degrees, is a very important step towards that goal. Noting last weekend’s frigid temperatures, well below zero, the Mayor spoke to the ongoing need, “without Code Blue, people would have likely died on our streets,” she said. 

 

“We are thankful to Mayor Yepsen and the United Way of the Greater Capital Region for stepping up and help make a difference,” Finocchi said, “it’s amazing how much the community gets involved.” He cited statistics showing what a difference Code Blue actually makes. “Last year, we had 14 people transition from Code Blue into our program at Shelters of Saratoga. None of these people have been back this winter,” he said. 

 

Here’s the part where you can make a difference too. Anyone wishing to make a contribution to help Code Blue reach its goal may go to a special webpage set up by the United Way. Visit www.unitedtoconquer.org. All donations made through this page will go to Code Blue. 

 

Also, if you are already contributing to the United Way through payroll deductions or other methods, Hassett told me that the United Way staff would be delighted to assist anyone who wants to designate that their contributions be earmarked for Code Blue. Call the UWGCR staff at 518-456-2200, or visit www.unitedwaygcr.org to do this. 

 

And, of course, volunteers are always needed. Visit www.codebluesaratoga.org to sign up for daily shift schedules. 

 

With the United Way contribution, and it’s fundraising support, a major step was taken towards a better life for many in need on the streets of our community. Like Code Blue itself, this is something every citizen should be proud of.

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