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March 29, 2010

How I Live United

Give. Advocate. Volunteer

Lisa Norwood shares her
desire to give back

Lisa NorwoodLisa Norwood has a very personal reason to volunteer her time with Mary Cariola Children’s Center: her daughter, Tiffany, was a student there for eight years.

Norwood, assistant dean of engineering and undergraduate studies for the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and a dedicated United Way donor, recalls how the center guided her and her husband on raising a student with multiple disabilities. Tiffany had cerebral palsy and couldn’t walk or talk, but she communicated nonverbally. She required around-the-clock care.

“The center is doing amazing things,” says Norwood, who is also a member of the 2010 University United Way Cabinet. “The children they serve have such great needs that can’t always be met by their families or even by the state.” She says the specialized equipment and the well-trained teachers allow families to focus on the abilities of their disabled children. Norwood says that’s important for both the students and the parents.

Since Tiffany’s death 10 years ago, Norwood and her husband have stayed involved with Mary Cariola, serving on the center’s board of directors and serving on committees within the organization. They also sponsor a team in the center’s annual fundraising walk-a-thon with family and friends. During the University’s Wilson Day for community service, she requests to work with the center.

“I really feel strongly about giving back to the community,” Norwood says, “especially to a place that has had such a profound impact on my life.”

Norwood says she’s been a volunteer for as long as she can remember, noting that she recently joined the Rochester Rotary, which supports the Sunshine Campus in Rush. The program gives disabled kids a chance to enjoy the summer camp experience.


Sean Ossont, father of three,
still finds time to give

Sean OssontSean Ossont has a full plate. As associate vice president of strategic planning at the Medical Center, his work days are spent helping to grow and strengthen the Medical Center’s programs, people, and physical plant. Home life is just as demanding: he’s a father of three energetic kids all under age five.

“Like many people, I don’t have the luxury of lots of spare time,” Ossont says. “But I still make a point to give to United Way, both financially and by volunteering.”

Ossont traces his first exercise in generosity back to working in his parish food pantry when he was 10.

“I sometimes went begrudgingly,” he admits. “But it was enlightening. For the first time in my life, I began to truly appreciate just how fortunate my parents were to be able to go to a grocery store and buy food for dinner. It was surreal.”

Changed by that experience, Ossont’s been giving to local charities, including the United Way, ever since. He especially likes the concept behind United Way; it’s a unique portal for helping the whole community, he says, since a single gift can power a kaleidoscope of charitable organizations.

Beyond giving to the community fund, Ossont says that everyone is sure to find at least one United Way–funded organization with a mission that’s particularly close to their own heart. Once they find that special organization, they can plug in by volunteering.

“For me, it’s CP Rochester,” he says. “I’m a board member, plus an instructor for Shared Ski Adventures—a 10-week adaptive ski experience for individuals with disabilities like autism, cerebral palsy, even blindness. Together, we hit the slopes every Saturday morning. It’s exhilarating for the students, and it reminds me, with every run, that anyone can do anything they set their mind to.”

Call to Action event is April 7

The United Way Young Leaders Initiative will be hosting a last chance call to action event on Wednesday, April 7. Look for United Way informational tables set up in 13 locations across campus around lunchtime. Young Leaders will be celebrating United Way’s contribution to the Rochester community and answering questions about the Blueprints for Change. There also will be an opportunity to e-pledge on the spot. Stop by to learn more about how you can help the University reach its goal.

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