Young Leaders United Hosts its 7th Annual Holiday Happy Hour on Thursday, December 15th

Young Leaders United (YLU) of United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region is hosting its annual Holiday Happy Hour on December 15th from 5:00 to 8:00pm at Mill House Brewing Company (289 Mill Street, Poughkeepsie, 2nd Floor).

This annual gathering celebrates Young Leaders United; an affiliate group of United Way composed of philanthropic community leaders aged 18 – 40, who work on service projects and community outreach throughout the year.

Young Leaders United’s Holiday Happy Hour provides an opportunity for members and prospective members to network and learn more about what YLU does. Young Leaders United has 20 dedicated members and is recruiting new members to join them and serve in 2017. What are the requirements? To have a passion for volunteering, be a strong leader, and desire deeper community involvement.

“Young Leaders United annual Holiday Happy Hour is a long standing tradition to get together in an effort to raise funds for our community,” stated Matthew Paquet, of Dutchess Community College and Abilities First who serves as chair of Young Leaders United. “Friends and family get together to talk about the activities we’ve done through the year and it is an opportunity to meet with people who are interested in Young Leaders’ work. It is great that we can all be together and have a good time while simultaneously making a difference in our community.”

Members of Young Leaders United serve as ambassadors for United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region. Many volunteer as a YLU team during United Way’s Days of Caring, including Make A Difference Day, Day of Action, and National Volunteer Week. In addition, Young Leaders United adopted Literacy Connection’s Book Buddies program as one of its volunteer outreaches, with members serving as a mentor to a student once a week to help to increase early literacy for students in Dutchess and Orange Counties. The group meets monthly on the second Tuesday to discuss future events and happenings in the area.

There is no charge to attend Young Leaders United Holiday Happy Hour, but everyone is encouraged to bring a gift card from a local grocery store as their donation store (Adams Fairacre Farms, Hannaford Supermarket, Price Chopper or Stop & Shop) as a donation that will be given to a family-in-need this holiday season by one of United Way’s Community Partners. Please note that there is a cash bar with appetizers offered without charge. The event is co-sponsored by Heckeroth Plumbing and Marist College. To learn more about the event or about Young Leaders United, go to or contact Melissa Clark at 845-471-1900 ext. 3128 or

About the Members of Young Leaders United:

Matthew Paquet, Chair, has volunteered through the United Way’s Young Leaders United for the past 9 years. He works in the Department of Quality Assurance at Abilities First Inc. and as Director of Athletics at Dutchess Community College. 

Weintana Abraha, a 2011 graduate of Vassar College, is an Education Outreach Fellow, in the Exploring College program of Vassar’s Urban Education Initiative.

Thomas Aguis is a financial advisor employed by Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith in Poughkeepsie, NY.

Nicole Aruilio, a graduate of Mount Saint Mary College, is an associate accountant in the Audit Department of RBT CPAs, LLP.

Kelsey Bradley, is a former United Way Community Impact Intern, works for City of Poughkeepsie as the Mayor's Assistant and is a 2016 graduate of Marist College with a degree in Communications and Political Science.

Casey Conlin is Assistant Director of the Poughkeepsie Public Library District.

Megan Deichler is Associate Program Officer for the Biomedical Research Infrastructure and Basic Medical Research Programs at the Helmsley Charitable Trust. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Manhattanville College where she studied biology and international studies. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Health from NYU.

Freddimir “Freddy” García is the Presidential Fellow at Marist College. He serves on the board of the Catharine Street Community Center, Family Services, and the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce. 

Echo Hanson is a student at Dutchess Community College.

Rebecca Jacobini, a graduate of Mount Saint Mary College, works in the audit department of RBT CPAs as an In-Charge Accountant.

Phillip Lekanides is Assistant Vice President of Residential Lending for Rhinebeck Bank and has volunteered with United Way Young Leaders for five years. He serves on the Dutchess County Habitat for Humanity Family Selection Committee. 

Mariksa Nieves, marketing co-chair, is the Southern Rural Area Coordinator at Literacy Connections of the Hudson Valley.

Stephen Orefice, marketing co-chair, is Relationship Manager at SERVPRO of NW & SE Dutchess County. He is involved in The Exchange Club of Southern Dutchess, Angels of Light, Lagrange-Sunrise Rotary Club, and BNI.

Kelly Osterman, marketing co-chairs, has volunteered for YLU for four years and is a Sales Executive at Marshall & Sterling Insurance.

Casper Owuor, a new member of YLU, works at Cerebral Palsy of Ulster County as a Staff Accountant. He has dedicated his life to working with people with developmental disabilities.

Julia Pagones, a member of Young Leaders United since 2012, works for Dutchess County Government. She is co-chair of the Hudson Valley Young Professionals, and was named a Forty Under 40 by the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce in 2014.

Jennifer Pawenski has been involved with United Way and Young Leaders United since 2011 and participated in events, including Read Across America Day, Make A Difference Day, and Holiday Drives. She works for The Chazen Companies.

Danielle Walsh is a coordinator at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Sarah Weikel, marketing co-chair, a Development Associate at Spark Media Project, serves on the board of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Mid-Hudson Valley Chapter, as the Scholarship Committee Chair, and received the 2016 award for “Rising Star Fundraiser.”

Thomas Weikel, studied history at SUNY New Paltz and works at the Poughkeepsie Journal.