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June 21, 2022

Together We Can: United Way Hosts Its Most Successful Gala Ever

The Imagine Gala held by United Way of Westchester and Putnam (UWWP) at Brae Burn Country Club in Purchase, NY, on Thursday, June 9, was the organization’s most successful event ever. The gala honored the philanthropic commitment and community leadership of notable and deserving honorees Barbara and H. Rodgin, “Rodge,” Cohen, Wegmans Food Markets, and Eric D. Eller. The sold-out event raised $530,000, making it the organization’s highest-grossing and most profitable gala on record.  

 “We could not have done this without our supporters and partners,” Tom Gabriel, President and CEO of UWWP and program host, said. “Thanks to their participation, we were able to host this amazing event, proving that we are stronger together and that it is only by being united that we can change the world.” 

Honorees received the “Spirit of Caring” award, United Way’s highest level of recognition. 

Walter Hosp presented Eller with United Way’s 2022 Community Service Award. A banker with decades of experience, Eller is vice president/credit portfolio manager at Valley National Bank, as well as president of the African American Men of Westchester Inc. A champion dedicated to fostering education, youth empowerment, domestic violence awareness and affordable housing, he is a steadfast community supporter serving as chairman of the board of commissioners, White Plains House Authority. Eller is currently United Way of Westchester and Putnam’s treasurer and vice chair of finance and a long-standing board member. 

“I’m humbled to receive this award,” Eller said. “I don’t feel worthy, because I have so much fun volunteering for the community that it doesn’t feel like work, or something worthy of being recognized for.” 

President and CEO of the Business Council of Westchester, Marsha Gordon, then presented the Corporate Citizenship Award to Wegmans. Zach Bell, Perishables Area Manager for Wegmans, accepted the award. Wegmans, which opened its Harrison location in 2020, has supported and partnered with United Way of Westchester and Putnam since 2019. The company devotes itself to being a good neighbor in every community they serve, and for decades, has been contributing to United Ways in all the company’s market areas because it remains the most efficient way to get needed funds to agencies that get measurable results. 

“Wegmans knows that the first place to go when we are setting up in a new community is United Way,” Bell said. “No one knows the needs of the community better than this organization. We love working with United Way of Westchester and Putnam, donating and volunteering.” 

Sy Sternberg, retired chairman and CEO of New York Life, presented the Chairman’s Award to Barbara and Rodge Cohen. 

Barbara and Rodge Cohen have been supporters for five decades of United Way’s mission to serve the community and those in need. They are founding members of the Tocqueville Society, an affinity group of major donors, with Barbara serving as chair of its Steering Committee from 2003-2005. Barbara and Rodge also engage in leadership positions at numerous educational and philanthropic organizations. 

The couple echoed the sentiments of the previous honorees, saying that the “work” they were honored for, doesn’t feel like work at all. 

“People don’t realize how much fun philanthropy is,” Rodge Cohen said. “It’s through the work of the volunteers, nonprofits, and philanthropists coming together that we are able to change lives.” 

Gabriel called the night a “transcendent success,” and said the organization was thrilled to be able to  host the in-person event for the first time since 2019. 

“It was a privilege to recognize the incredible community leaders, whose contributions to the community only reflect the overarching theme of the night: ‘Together We Can,’” he said. 

United Way’s Imagine Gala is generously supported by Presenting Sponsor – Chubb, Gold Sponsors – Michael and Mary Carpenter, Centerview Partners LLC, First Republic Bank, Edward D. Herlihy, Innisfree, Orin Kramer, Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc., Lazard, M&T Bank, Eric and Stacey Mindich, New York Community Bank, Julie and Brian Simmons/Deerfield Academy, Sullivan & Cromwell LLC, Webster Bank, Margaret and David Yawman, Esq., Silver Sponsors – Hara Amdemariam, BNY Mellon, Citizens Bank, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLC, Mary Ann and Bob Downes, Emigrant Bank, Michael T. Escue, Esq. and Scott Wimbush, Jared Fishman and Joanna Liebman, The Greenbrier, Joele Frank, Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher, Norma Lerner, Diane L. McGimsey, Esq., Scott Miller, Esq., Sharon Nelles and Scott Sager, Adam S. Paris, Esq., Sarah Payne, Esq., PURE Insurance, Alison and Richard Ressler, TD Bank, Wegmans, Laura Jean Wilson and Mark Menting, and Bronze Sponsors – Bank Policy Institute, Chain Bridge Partners, LLC , Conner Strong & Buckelew, Cuddy & Feder, Dawn M. Fisher and Stacey R. Friedman, Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts, Extensis HR, Walter and Lori Hosp, IBM, Jane Lisman Katz, Paraco Gas, and PCSB Bank.