BY RICK KAZMER
United Way of the Southern Alleghenies
It has been a busy season for United Way in the region, enhanced Monday by the announcement of a record-breaking fundraiser.
On Monday, the organization held its Annual Breakfast at Ace's in Johnstown, which served as a time to celebrate the good news, and to set the tone for the rest of the year.
BIG NEWS: The good reports came two-fold. United Way leaders introduced the organization's new name, United Way of the Southern Alleghenies, following the merger with United Way of Blair County in late August. The new organization will be headquartered in Johnstown, but will be maintaining the office, Family Resource Center and staff in Blair County. There will continue to be a presence in Somerset County at Uptown Works. United Way plans for the merger to allow for expanded programs, access to more funding opportunities, and unique synergies that will provide for enhanced programs and services. The new service area is Blair, Cambria, and Somerset Counties.
KEY QUOTE: "The goal is to make this region the best place to live, work, and raise a family," organization President and CEO Karen Struble Myers said.
WHAT TO EXPECT NEXT: The United Way will be hiring an Early Childhood Initiative Coordinator in Cambria County, in partnership with key funders, the 1889 Foundation, Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, and Lee Initiatives. This is part of the effort to spearhead an initiative to enhance early childhood development organization and opportunities in the region. In Blair County, staff members will begin implementing the organization's Community Impact Model, which leverages volunteer panels to identify priority needs and to find the right programs to fund or form, to meet them. The United Way's Diaper Bank is also going to expand into Blair County.
A RECORD-SETTING NIGHT: United Way Community Impact Manager Paula Gojmerac organized the biggest Power of the Purse event in the organization's history on Sept. 7 at the 1st Summit Arena in Johnstown. The purse bash raised $58,000, which is designated to the United Way's early childhood programming and Diaper Bank Network. More than 700 people attended.
KEY QUOTE: "Because of your continued investment, we are poised to grow," Struble Myers said.
SETTING THE TONE: The Honorable Marjorie Rendell, president of The Rendell Center for Civics & Civic Engagement, and judge at the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, was the keynote speaker during the United Way's Annual Breakfast on Sept. 11. She had a powerful message about the importance of volunteerism and being engaged with the community.
IMPORTANT POINTS: Only miles away, the annual remembrance ceremony for the 40 passengers and crew members of Flight 93 was being held in Stonycreek Township, Somerset County. Rendell highlighted their sacrifice, evidence of "how ordinary people can make such a difference in our world." The 40 heroes are credited with fighting back against the terrorists onboard that day, preventing the plane from reaching another target. She listed great American statesmen -- Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Martin Luther King Jr. among them -- and how they demonstrated the power of engaged citizens. She challenged the approximately 90 people in attendance to take responsibility for the well-being of their communities.
KEY QUOTE: "The United Way is about creating lasting change in our communities," Rendell said during her address, noting the more than 58,000 people the organization helped last year.
WHAT'S NEXT: United Way staff will be working more than ever to engage community members in important efforts to provide lasting-change services in the region. Email email@example.com for information on how to become involved.