BY RICK KAZMER
United Way of the Laurel Highlands
The United Way of the Laurel Highlands reported during the organization's annual meeting May 24 that the 2021-22 Annual Campaign is at 95% of the $1.15 million goal.
Funds raised through June 30 will count toward the campaign total. United Way staff, board members and community members gathered on Zoom for the organization's meeting, which was used as a time to highlight the year's efforts to help families in Cambria and Somerset Counties.
"We are so very grateful to live and work in such a generous community," United Way President & CEO Karen Struble Myers said.
The organization will be giving more than $788,000 to 24 Partner Agencies. The core focus of the funded programs is early childhood development, parental engagement and youth drug and alcohol prevention. United Way also funds programs that provide other key health and human services, including food banks, shelters and utility assistance.
"The investment we've made in evidence-based programs over the past decade are paying dividends," Struble Myers said, noting that recent data collected shows that lifetime use of alcohol and cigarettes have strongly trended downward among sixth, eighth and 12th graders.
United Way funds the Botvin LifeSkills youth drug and alcohol prevention program, taught to 6,500 kids in Cambria and Somerset County schools.
United Way continues to support the PA 2-1-1 call center, a 24/7 professionally staffed help line for basic human needs.
The organization's ongoing grant writing work brought in more than $1.7 million dollars for community programs and projects. Since that work started less than a decade ago, more than $9 million in grants has been brought to the Laurel Highlands.
In 2021, the Women United signature event, Power of the Purse, returned after missing a year due to the pandemic. More than 650 women attended, raising more than $45,000 for early childhood development work. More than 22,000 diapers were also collected during the event, providing the stockpile needed to create the United Way's newest project, a regional diaper bank.
This first venture into direct programming has resulted in 279 children being provided with 6,975 diapers since February. The United Way continues to work closely with the 1889 Foundation, which provides a matching grant, to make strategic investments through the Community Impact Process.
In closing, Struble Myers thanked the United Way's staff, board, volunteers and supporters.
"Thank you for doing -- doing what's right for our community, doing what's beneficial for our neighbors and doing what is not always easy, but doing it for the good of others."