From helping to stock the Brooke County Public Library to providing meals for area seniors, contributions to the United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley have been helping area organizations to serve the community in a variety of ways.
The Brooke County United Way merged with the organization in 2009, spurred by the challenge of generating revenue in a shrinking population. But many of the organizations that received funding through the Brooke County group were already aided by the Wheeling-based Upper Ohio Valley organization or have been added since.
They include: the American Red Cross' River Valley Chapter, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Upper Ohio Valley, Boy Scouts Ohio River Valley Council, Brooke County Committee on Aging, Brooke County Public Library, Brooke County Salvation Army, Family Service Association, Girl Scouts Black Diamond Council, Healthways, which operates the Brooke County Opportunity Center; Girl Scouts Black Diamond Council and Upper Ohio Valley Sexual Assault Help Center.
DECIDING HOW TO DIVIDE FUNDING — Trained volunteers from throughout the Ohio Valley help to determine how funds raised by the United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley will be divided among 30 community agencies. Among the many involved are, from left: Greg Pohl of Ogden Newspapers, Eric Russo of Wheeling Island Hotel Casino and Racetrack; Ruth Lewis, a retired Brooke County teacher; and Jody Krzywdik of The Citizens Bank. They are part of an allocation panel that also includes Amy Dobkin of Chesapeake Energy; Cole Elliott of Reynolds Memorial Hospital; and Rodney Haley of Oglebay Resort and Conference Center. The Brooke County United Way merged with the Upper Ohio Valley United Way in 2009. - Contributed
The United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley has reached about 80 percent of its goal of $777,000 in a campaign chaired by Judy Riesbeck-Wright.
Joining her on the campaign cabinet are: Jay Mitchell of Eagle Manufacturing of Wellsburg; Jim Rock of PPG Industries- Natrium; Kristie L. Barnett of WesBanco; Jeffrey Knierim of West Liberty University; Stuart Block of Hazlett, Burt and Watson; Bradley Shafer of Swartz Campbell LLC; Mary K. DeGarmo of Wellsburg, and Bernadette Smith of Hazlett, Burt & Watson.
"To those who have donated to the campaign thus far, we thank you so very much for your support," said Riesbeck-Wright, who added it's not too late to make a contribution.
Those interested in doing so should call (304) 232-4625 or visit its website at www.unitedwayuov.org for information.
With the campaign near its completion, allocation panels made up of local volunteers met with representatives of the 30 area organizations supported by the United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley to hear funding requests.
The panels gather information in order to make recommendations to the United Way's board of directors, who make the final determination of how the campaign funds are distributed.
George Smoulder, executive director of the United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley, said "in determining how the funds will go to member agencies, (the panels) will have an impact on the lives of hundreds of individuals."
Joy Crawford, executive director of the Brooke County Committee on Aging, said, "The United Way plays a really important role here, believe me."
Crawford explained most of United Way funding allocated to the committee is used for local matches required of federal grants used to provide hot meals to seniors at nutrition sites established at the Brooke County Senior Center and five other Brooke and Hancock county locations as well as many shut-ins in the two counties.
The nutrition program supplies more than 5,000 meals per month, about half to shut-ins, who also receive "blizzard boxes," which contain non-perishable food they may consume when heavy snow prevents the program's drivers from reaching them.
Crawford said the United Way funds also help to fuel the program's vans, which travel to many rural areas of the counties.
"We travel a lot of miles for our shut-ins," she said.
Mary Kay Wallace, director of the Brooke County Public Library and Follansbee Branch Library, said, "We use the United Way money, which is so generously given, for equipment such as computers, office supplies, books, DVDs and even lighting."
Wallace said the funds are vital as the library faces a decline in state funding resulting in a decline in population reported by the 2010 Census.
It's not surprising that leaders of the various United Way agencies often play an active role in promoting awareness of the organization and in supporting its fundraisers and even holding their own.
In recent years Angela Kocher, executive director of the Brooke-Hancock-Ohio-Marshall Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, which doesn't receive United Way funds but operates out of the Brooke County Senior Center, has coordinated walks benefiting the United Way at Brooke County schools.
Walks held at Colliers, Franklin, Hooverson Heights, Jefferson and Lauretta B. Millsop primary schools in the fall have netted $740 for the cause, and others are planned for the spring.
Last year walks held at seven Brooke County schools raised $2,116.
Community members are welcome to join students and staff at the schools in taking laps around their gyms or athletic tracks while raising money through sponsorships or contributions for the United Way.
"The kids are always so willing to help," said Kocher.
The United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley also will hold a Night at the Races, an annual fundraiser, March 16 at Wheeling Island Hotel, Casino and Racetrack. Tickets are $30 for the event, which includes a buffet dinner with various stations, including seafood for observers of Lent and others.
They may be purchased by calling (304) 232-4625, with reservations preferred by March 9.