Why     How     What

June 22, 2023

United Way Gala Among Most successful to Date

2023 Imagine Gala Honors Sy Sternberg, Webster Bank, John R. Ciulla, Erin Fuller, and June K. Blanc

United Way of Westchester and Putnam’s annual Imagine Gala was held on Wednesday June 7 at Brae Burn Country Club, and it was a night to remember. The event—among the most successful to date—is a critical fundraiser for UWWP, raising $315,000 for the organization’s important work in the community.

“Tonight, we celebrate the generosity of our community and honor those whose spirit of caring has made a real difference in the lives of others,” said Tom Gabriel, president and CEO of United Way of Westchester and Putnam. “Together, we can continue to support the vital work of United Way and ensure that our community remains strong and United.”

The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Spirit of Caring Awards, which recognize individuals and organizations that have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to philanthropy, corporate citizenship, and community service.

Chairman’s Award: Sy Sternberg
Retired Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer, New York Life Insurance Company

Sy Sternberg is the former chairman and chief executive officer of New York Life Insurance Company and the former chairman of Northeastern University’s Board of Trustees. He is also a former director of CIT Group and Express Scripts. Mr. Sternberg currently serves on several non-profit boards including New York-Presbyterian Hospital, the Hackley School, the New-York Historical Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City, The Leadership Academy, and the Foundation for City College. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. One of last year’s Chairman’s award recipients, H. Rodgin Cohen, presented Sternberg with the award.

“Sy Sternberg is a person of exceptional accomplishment and sterling character,” he said. “… Sy personifies generosity of self, the pursuit of excellence and the commitment to make a positive difference in our world.”

Sternberg, who met his wife Laurie at a United Way function 44 years ago, said he is happy to be a member of the United Way Family and honored by the award. Sternberg’s involvement with United Way spans 45 years, serving on various boards including allocation and fundraising boards that he said left him “very impressed with United Way. “

“The mission statement of United Way [says] it all,” Sternberg said. “United Way seeks to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities to achieve the common good. If you work with United Way, you know how true that statement is.”

Philanthropy and Corporate Citizenship Award:
Webster Bank, accepted by John R. Ciulla and Erin Fuller
Tocqueville Society Members, CEO, Webster Bank

As Webster’s primary charity, the bank and its colleagues have raised more than $20 million for United Way over two decades through employee pledging, fundraising and the corporate match serving communities across its franchise. Locally, Webster Bank is a proud partner of United Way of Westchester and Putnam. Through volunteerism, employee giving and corporate grants, Webster supports United Way’s continuing efforts to improve the lives of the 40% of local individuals and families who live paycheck-to-check or in poverty. Whether providing United Way with support during the pandemic or its early literacy and essential goods programs, Webster continues to demonstrate its commitment to the communities and residents it serves.

John R. Ciulla is the President & CEO of Webster Financial Corporation and CEO of Webster Bank, N.A. headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut.  United Way is Webster’s primary philanthropic program, growing each year and producing record results in its employee campaigns throughout the global pandemic. John and Erin are longstanding Tocqueville Society members. Their generous giving has had an impact on thousands of residents across New York, Connecticut and Southern New England. Board Chairperson William M. Mooney III, Esq. Presented the award.

“In addition to their high-power intellect, they have huge hearts, a passion for community and they’re just fun people,” Mooney said. “Those that know them best describe them as relationship builders. They stay connected to friends and family and they know how to connect resources to community needs. John and Erin are purposeful supporters of the communities where they live and work volunteering their time and committing their personal resources to charitable organization in New York and Connecticut.”

The couple lives in the area and have two college-aged children.

“Volunteers are the backbone of our workplace campaign, as they are to United Way at large,” Ciulla said during their acceptance speech. “Webster’s commitment to community service finds our colleagues sorting food, collecting food drives, cleaning out summer day camps, just to name a few. It’s for all these reasons that Erin and I also choose personally to support United Way of Westchester and Putnam. We live here in the county with our kids and see firsthand the difference the organization makes for those who need support most. We are thrilled to support the United way partners who remain [ready] to respond to the needs of our communities by forming partnerships, helping individuals and families during these uncertain times.”

Community Service Award: June K. Blanc
Community Leader, Past Chair, Board of Directors United Way of Westchester and Putnam

June K. Blanc served on the United Way of Westchester and Putnam Board of Directors since 2013 and was its chair from 2018-2020. June is a founding member of United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council and is the current Chair-Elect of the United Way of New York State. In the early 1980’s, June returned to New York with husband, Roger, and their three children, settling in Chappaqua. Now retired from planning, she remembered the words of her grandmother, who founded schools in China, to always work to serve one’s community, and found her way to the Junior League of Northern Westchester. Over the decades, June held leadership positions on the boards of the Junior League of Northern Westchester, Northern Westchester Hospital and its Foundation Board, Hope’s Door, Teatown Lake Reservation, St. Matthew’s Church, and numerous other local organizations. She was also appointed to the New Castle Zoning Board and later, the New Castle Planning Board. Derek Anderson, Executive Director Northern Westchester Hospital, presented her award.

“[June] joined United Way of Westchester and Putnam’s Board of Directors in 2013 and then she immediately put herself to work being ‘the doer,’” Anderson said. “When she became the board chair in 2018, little did she know what lay ahead: grappling with the retirement of United Way’s former CEO and leading the search for the right replacement, starting a long-term strategic assessment for the organization and then March 2020 hit. With a health crisis and economic crisis, the likes of which none of had seen in over 100 years, amidst the chaos and uncertainty June embraced both flexibility and nimbleness. She never wavered in her attention to detail and process and inspired those around her to rally and soldier.”

According to Blanc, volunteerism comes naturally and was a habit her parents instilled early on. When her parents came to the United States as students in the late 1930s and early 1940s, they had hoped to take what they learned back to a democratic China. They did return Blanc said, but once they knew their dream for their country was not to be realized, they took their young family and moved to San Antonio, Texas

“That energy and what they had hoped for [China] they put into being citizens of the United States and residents of San Antonio, Texas,” she said. “For my parents it was always a great deal of gratitude, appreciation, and love of the United States, so they got involved in everything. Forward moving, we moved to Westchester, and it was just very natural for me to serve the community. I am really humbled and surprised by this award because it felt so natural.”

The awards were presented after a silent auction and paddle fundraiser, and the awardees gave inspiring speeches about the importance of giving back to the community. The audience was welcomed by William Mooney and greeted by Tom Gabriel. Following the speeches, dinner was served, and guests enjoyed a wonderful evening of networking, music and celebration.

“UWWP would like to thank all of the sponsors, volunteers, and attendees who made the 2023 Imagine Gala such a success,” Gabriel said. “Their support enables the organization to continue its vital work in the community, helping to improve the lives of those in need.”

United Way’s Imagine Gala was generously supported by Presenting Sponsors –  New York Life Insurance Company, Webster Bank, Barbara and H. Rodgin Cohen and Laurie and Sy Sternberg, Gold Sponsors – The Blanc Family, M&T Bank and Margaret and David Yawman, Esq., Silver Sponsors – African American Men of Westchester, Northern Westchester Hospital, PCSB Community Foundation, Pure Insurance, Wegmans and Bronze Sponsors – Cuddy & Feder,  Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts, Extensis HR, Flagstar Bank, N.A., Walter and Lori Hosp, IBM, Lawley Insurance, and Paraco Gas.

Click HERE to view photos of the event.

About United Way of Westchester and Putnam

United Way of Westchester and Putnam (UWWP) is an anti-poverty organization dedicated to improving the lives of 40% of our neighbors who live in poverty or paycheck to paycheck. United Way provides strategic resources and tools to help struggling residents lead a better, more stable life, and these include our 211-helpline operating 24/7 across the Hudson Valley, early literacy programming for preschoolers in underserved communities, job skills training and financial empowerment for financially struggling adults and families, as well as access to health services and discounts on prescription drugs. United Way supports hundreds of local nonprofits with millions of dollars in grants and essential goods for basic needs, as well as by providing affordable professional development and connecting nonprofits to new resources.

UWWP is located at 336 Central Park Ave., White Plains, NY 10606. Phone: 914-997-6700 Website: Facebook: ( and Twitter (@UnitedWayWP).