United Way plans virtual 5.18 Day, donates $50K to Whitney Young

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

“We’re all going to do better if everyone gets engaged in this fight,” said Peter Gannon, president and chief executive officer of the United Way of the Greater Capital Region.

ALBANY COUNTY — Walk-up testing for at-risk neighborhoods, an initiative started in Albany County several weeks ago, has now expanded to nearby Rensselaer County.

Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy has said that regional testing for COVID-19 is the way to move the area toward reopening.

This week, in addition to testing in Albany and Watervliet, testing sites will be set up in front of the city hall in Rensselaer and in the county administration building in Troy.

Albany County set up its mobile testing in partnership with the Whitney M. Young Jr. Health Center. At Sunday’s Albany County press briefing, Peter Gannon, president of the United Way of the Greater Capital Region, announced that United Way is donating $50,000 in COVID-19 relief aid to Whitney Young.

The Whitney Young application “caught our eye,” said Gannon, because it’s important to make sure everyone who needs a test gets one. The coronavirus disease 2019 is disproportionately impacting the poor and disproportionately impacting People of color, he said.

Gannon said of McCoy, “He understands issues the working poor are dealing with because that’s how he grew up.”

About two months ago, United Way established the Capital Region Community COVID-19 Response Fund and has so far raised over $800,000. Most of that comes from corporate sponsors, said Gannon, but over $31,000 has come from small individual donations, he said.

“We’re trying to get financial resources out to the community as quickly as possible,” Gannon said. “We’ve already deployed $650,000.” The money has gone to over 30 local organizations, including the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York and Food Pantries for the Capital District.

Gannon encouraged people to contribute by texting “COVID19” to 41444.

“We’re all going to do better if everyone gets engaged in this fight,” said Gannon.

Gannon also explained plans for 5.18 Day, named for the original telephone area code for the Capital District and therefore held on the 18th day of the fifth month: May 18.

Last year, Gannon said, 5.18 Day drew 500 volunteers who worked on 40 projects. This year, 50 community projects were planned for 1,000 volunteers.

Because of restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus, following through with those projects would be “too risky and not smart,” Gannon said. So, instead, the event will be held virtually.

Gasnnon described it as “a day of civic pride.”

A community-wide baby shower will be held with the goods going to struggling families. A CDTA bus will be parked in front of Dave & Buster’s at Crossgates Mall in Guilderland and people can “stuff the bus” with contributions for babies.

There will also be a community-wide chalk art contest, and Gannon pressed McCoy into agreeing to be a judge for the contest on the spot in the midst of the press briefing.

Fifty virtual service opportunities will be outlined on United Way’s website that people can participate in from home.

A series of paid events, with admission fees from $10 to $25, will range from a trivia contest to a virtual 5K race.

“Everyone’s looking for optimism now,” said Gannon. “Everyone’s looking for a way to give back.”

In conclusion, he urged, “Get engaged. This is how you get back to normal. By touching base with things that you were doing before this crisis.”

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