4 energetic Young Leaders chairing Middlesex United Way campaign

When we are planning our next year’s campaign, we focus on trying new ideas that will help reach the largest possible audience. This year, we went with the theory that the more the merrier, and I am pleased to announce for the first time ever, we have the pleasure of announcing four new campaign co-chairpeople: Justin Carbonella, Toral Maher, Joe Santaniello and Meg Slater. These co-chairs are excited to take on this shared responsibility, and it does not hurt that they are all friends and longtime supporters of Middlesex United Way.

In case you don’t know, Justin, Toral, Joe and Meg are all founding members of our Young Leaders Society, and have all served in a leadership position as chairperson. As campaign co-chairs, these four individuals will volunteer with us throughout the year to engage companies to support the United Way campaign. This unique group is already hard at work sharing the United Way mission and the importance of changing lives in the areas of education, income, health and housing throughout Middlesex County.


They will focus their efforts on developing innovative ways of raising money, new business relationships, and strengthening our existing relationships with our generous workplace campaign contributors. They hope to do this all while also engaging and educating community and business leaders in our county about United Way’s work in education, income, health and housing.

Let me take a moment to share a little about them.

Justin Carbonella has served as director of the city of Middletown’s Youth Services Bureau for the past 12 years, and, in his time there, has established his department to be the central coordination hub around youth development, youth justice, and behavioral health issues in the Middletown community. Justin chairs a number of community coalitions, including the Greater Middletown Community Collaborative, Middletown Youth Diversion Team, Right Response coalition, and the Middletown Substance Abuse Prevention Council. He has also initiated a community-wide youth engagement campaign that has been recognized multiple times as prevention program of the year, on both state and local levels.


Justin’s work and leadership have been recognized by the Connecticut Youth Services Association, Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council, Hartford Business Journal, Middlesex County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the University of Connecticut’s Public Policy Program, Northern Middlesex YMCA, and others.


It is pretty clear we are incredibly lucky to have him volunteering with us. He is a former staff member for Middlesex United Way, where he helped guide our strategies to maximize the impact of our funding to local nonprofit partners.

Toral Maher began working for Liberty Bank in 2005 and is currently serving as the senior program officer of the Liberty Bank Foundation. Toral manages the foundation’s education grants portfolio, working with nonprofit partners on programs that support economic success.

We are fortunate to work side by side with Toral during the Middletown Community Thanksgiving Project, as she manages the Liberty Bank/Rotary Club Thanksgiving Dinner Drive. She has dedicated herself to building lasting relationships with various nonprofits and has served as chairwoman of the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy Program Officers Network, Bridge to Success Community Partnership, Advisory Board member, and the Middlesex Coalition for Children board member. Her work within United Way has included former chairwoman of the Middlesex United Way Young Leaders Society, and member of both the Board of Directors and governance committee.

Joe Santaniello currently works for Charles IT in Cromwell as a business developer. Joe is a U.S. Navy veteran and is widely known for his contagious enthusiasm and positive attitude. Joe is a current United Way board member, and even helped found the Middlesex United Way Young Leaders Society, serving at times as chairman and co-chairman.

Joe has proven his leadership skills through serving as a mentor for young students with the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce School mentor program, as well as working with Middletown schools’ Project Graduation program. His volunteerism throughout the community spans from participating in the Credit 4 Life event, Middlesex Chamber of Commerce Annual Car Cruise, Motorcycle Mania, Holiday on Main Street, and many more.

In 2017, he was a recipient of the Middlesex United Way Community Leadership Award, which is awarded to an individual whose leadership helps to strengthen communities. Joe also serves on the board of MARC Community Resources, and was a member of St. Luke’s Community Services board, both of which are Middlesex United Way funding partners.

Meghan Slater is executive assistant at Wright-Pierce in Middletown. Meghan has over 10 years of experience in marketing and administrative support to environmental engineering teams. She is involved with the Middletown Racial Justice Coalition and has served on the Middletown Refuges Resettlement Coalition and CT AWWA Water for People Committee. Meghan has served as a United Way board member since 2015 and was chairwoman of the Middlesex United Way Young Leader Society in 2014, and also served as the Wright-Pierce workplace campaign coordinator from 2006 to 2014.

“I’m hoping that as young professionals, we can increase the United Way’s connection to the youth in our community, and I hope we can leverage the expertise of those who have come before us to help us innovate and continue to build on,” Slater said when asked for her goals for this year’s campaign.

I would like to personally thank all of you who are volunteering for this year’s campaign, as well as the thousands of you who contribute each year. It’s really something amazing to see when our community comes together and support each other.

On Sept. 25, we are inviting the community to join the incredible folks who run the campaigns at your workplaces to our campaign kickoff at the Wesleyan Center for Film Studies. We are excited to honor 30 years of leadership giving. Please join us for the opportunity to network, learn more about the impact of our work in our community and meet our campaign co-chairs. You will also have a first look at a special film being shown in Goldsmith Family Cinema and access to The Rick Nicita Gallery.

Please RSVP to Maria Woods at maria.wood@middlesexunitedway.org or 860-346-8695.

Kevin Wilhelm is executive director and CEO of the Middlesex United Way in Middletown.