Help United Way make a difference

The United Way of the Laurel Highlands is now conducting its annual campaign to serve Cambria and Somerset counties.

The goal is to raise $1.5 million; however, the agency’s real mission with these monies is to strengthen the fabric of local communities.

With the public’s support, United Way can accomplish its common cause of creating and sustaining positive, generational social change through improvements in the lives of individuals and families most in need in the communities.

Through locally based community needs assessment, United Way identified three core social-change initiatives:

• Early childhood development: to prepare children socially, emotionally and academically for kindergarten.

• Parental engagement: to increase parental knowledge of child development and care.

• Youth drug and alcohol prevention: to find ways to prevent substance abuse among our youth.

As we ask for the public’s support, people can feel confident their donations will be put to great use.

The United Way is making a difference. Three particular programs the agency has invested in provide clear evidence of progress:

• The nurse family partnership program, designed to support low-income, first-time mothers, is the No. 1 rated evidence-based program in the United States. Its benefits include a 48 percent reduction in child abuse and neglect; a 50 percent reduction in childhood language delays; and the realization that mothers are two times more likely to remain in a healthy, stable relationship.

• Parents as teachers program is a highly rated evidence-based home visitation approach designed to increase parental knowledge of early childhood development, prevent child abuse, and provide earlier detection of child health issues.

Measurable benefits here include 100 percent of children receive annual development screenings; 100 percent of children have up-to-date immunizations; and parenting practices have increased.

• The Botvin Life Skills Drug and Alcohol Prevention Program is delivered to all public school districts in Cambria and Somerset counties.

It is identified as the top-rated substance abuse prevention program in the country. Its measurable benefits include significant reductions in alcohol, tobacco and drug use as well as reductions in violence and delinquency.

Contributors can rest assured that campaign donations remain local. Funds are carefully allocated to partner agencies by a community impact committee. This committee is a group of more than 30 volunteers from Cambria and Somerset counties that meets with and reviews the programs and services of each partner agency.

These meetings enable the best decisions to be made on allocating funds to provide the most positive impacts in communities.

I have been involved with this committee for several years, and I can attest to the dedication and commitment of these volunteers.

Campaign donations are used to support local service agency partners.

Also, United Way of the Laurel Highlands recognizes that it is accountable to the community for the monies raised in the campaign.

The United Way has been ranked at the highest level – platinum – for transparency, fiscal management and community impact by GuideStar, the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations.

In addition, the local board of directors and management staff continuously focus on showing outcomes and results and reporting them back to the community stakeholders. Partner agencies receiving campaign donations are required to submit quarterly outcome reports for review.

On these points, the 1889 Foundation had the confidence in United Way’s vision, leadership, programs’ effectiveness, outcomes and accountability to announce last year a three-year commitment for an annual $500,000 matching pledge to the campaign.

We remain grateful to the foundation for its support and the positive impact these dollars are having.

On behalf of the directors and partner agencies, I thank those who have and will support this year’s campaign.

Please contact me at 532-3032 or winger@fnb-corp.com, or contact the United Way office at 535-2563 or donate online at www.uwlaurel.org.

Donations are accepted on an individual basis, or arrangements can be made with business owners and other organizations to discuss employee campaigns in a larger setting. Every donation, regardless of size, is important.

United Way of the Laurel Highlands recognizes the confidence the public places in us by donating to its annual campaign.

The United Way remains committed to using these donations for the best benefit of individuals and families in need in Cambria and Somerset counties.

Let’s continue the proud legacy of working together to strengthen our communities. Let’s stand together with the United Way.

Greg Winger, a senior vice president at First National Bank, Johnstown, is the 2016 campaign chairman of United Way of the Laurel Highlands.