United Way supports programs, signals successes

Johnstown Tribune-Democrat - Chip Minemyer

The United Way of the Laurel Highlands is putting money where’s its mission is, with more than $1.2 million in grants to support local programs – especially those targeting early childhood development, parenting and families, and the prevention of substance abuse.

The goal is a healthier, safer and smarter region.

“Our focus is to prevent problems from happening in the first place,” United Way board Chairman Mike Artim said as the organization announced its funding plans last week.

“We continue to invest in high-quality, evidence-based programming that is proven to produce results,” he said.

Top recipients will include Beginnings Inc. ($224,000 for its Parents As Teachers program); Home Nursing Agency ($191,000); and Family Center ($116,000).

Other United Way awards will range from $45,500 to $1,500, and will support the work of organizations including The Learning Lamp, Johnstown Free Medical Clinic, Coal Country Youth Center, the Women’s Help Center and Goodwill Industries.

Parents as Teachers worked with 57 Cambria County families, with 20 on a waiting list, Beginnings Executive Director Paula Eppley-Newman said.

The program targets families with children 5 years of age and younger, and addresses developmental problems with the children, abuse and neglect prevention, preparation for school and parent-child relationships.

“We can go in there and support those parents to help them be the best teachers they can possibly be for their child,” Eppley-Newman said.

“Kids don’t come with direction books.

“As parents, sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know. We are here to provide that help.”

Our region is battling a major drug problem, and the United Way is bolstering efforts to educate children against the dangers of heroin and other substances, while also helping agencies that work with addicts looking to kick the habit.

The new Cambria County Prevention Coalition will receive $40,000 to grow its efforts to coordinate anti-drug initiatives across the region.

“We can work with all the community organizations so we can spread prevention programs evenly throughout the county,” coalition community mobilizer Bethany Winters said.

This year’s United Way campaign was bolstered by a $500,000 matching donation from the 1889 Foundation, which is focused on supporting efforts to enhance health and wellness on a broad scale – helping children and families, fighting drugs.

United Way Executive Director Bill McKinney said his organization is leading the charge to form a Cambria County Drug Coalition. 

“We are laying the foundation for more collaborative work in all the areas dealing with drug abuse,” McKinney said. “It’s a three-legged stool for drug abuse with law enforcement, treatment and prevention.”

The agencies that operate programs funded by the United Way – from the Salvation Army and the Alternative Community Resource Program to Easter Seals, Bottleworks and Mom’s House – are making a difference in local communities.

The annual announcement of United Way funding is both a thank-you for their efforts and a signal that their