United Way announces more than $859K in grants; recaps pandemic relief effort

6/17/21 - RICK KAZMER 
United Way of the Laurel Highlands
United Way of the Laurel Highlands board and staff members leveraged the organization’s nimbleness during the pandemic as part of the effort to support communities in Cambria and Somerset Counties through 25 Partner Agencies.
The news, including level grant awards for the nonprofit’s core initiatives, was announced during the organization’s annual meeting on June 16 with $859,028 in grants to Partner Agencies in the Laurel Highlands. 
During the height of the COVID-19 shutdowns, the United Way began to raise funding to help keep key community programs at work. The result was nearly $72,000 that went to help food banks, shelters and other health and human services. 
“The financial assistance helped us to continue our hot, lunchtime meal,” Georgia Lehman, community relations specialist for St. Vincent de Paul in Johnstown, said about the funding. 
The pandemic relief is part of a United Way campaign season like no other, requiring online workplace campaign visits and other unique fundraising. The community responded, contributing to more than $859,000 in grants going to Partner Agencies across Cambria and Somerset Counties, part of the overall fundraising effort. Some of those agencies provide the United Way’s core initiatives of youth drug and alcohol prevention, parental engagement and early childhood education, among other health and human services. The United Way continues to support the PA 211 Network, a 24/7 call center staffed by professionals, offering residents help to find food, shelter and other basic needs. 
“Our United Way started a food security coalition to enhance our regional food system — assisting with everything from volunteering at drive-up distributions to obtaining gallons of milk for local food pantries,” United Way President and CEO Karen Struble Myers said in the organization’s annual report. 
The nonprofit was able to maintain level funding for Partner Agencies providing core initiative work, including $180,000 to Beginnings Inc.; $50,000 to Home Nursing Agency; $40,000 to the Cambria County Drug Coalition and $34,000 to the Family Center, among others. Newly funded this year is the Flood City Youth Academy in Johnstown. The academy received $12,500 for youth tutoring. Other agencies were funded at near pre-pandemic levels. Also a new partner is the Somerset County Mobile Food Bank. More than $5,000 is supporting the sustainable produce program. 
The United Way has a strong partnership with the 1889 Foundation. Throughout the pandemic, the United Way worked with the 1889 Foundation to fund emergency needs through the community grant-making process. Together, the partnership invested more than $191,000 to support nonprofits helping the region’s most vulnerable residents during the COVID-19 crisis. 
In 2020, the 1889 Foundation provided a $500,000 challenge grant to advance the United Way’s social change initiatives in Cambria and Somerset counties. These funds were invested across Partner Agencies’ programs to scale innovative approaches to solving some of the most challenging problems.
“Regardless of the path we’ve navigated this past year, we’re still here. We’re still united, and we’re still deeply committed to serving our community, now and years from now. As we slowly transition out of the pandemic, we are heartened by our community’s resiliency, and are ready to rebuild, restore and reimagine a bright future ahead,” Struble Myers said. 
For a complete list of grant awardees, go to the annual report at uwlaurel.org.  
New board members inducted:
John Augustine, administrative director at the Greater Johnstown Career & Technology Center. 
The Rev. Matt Deal, St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Somerset. 
Karen Mento, senior vice president and chief administrative officer, 1st Summit Bank. 
Tracy Selak, administrator at Cambria County Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disabilities and Early Intervention.
Natalie Kurchak, sales and marketing manager at WTAJ-TV