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United Way raises more than $3M; exceeds $2.8M goal

By Justin Wier

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

YOUNGSTOWN

The United Way of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley raised just over $3 million during its 2016 fundraising campaign.

This exceeded the organization’s goal of $2.8 million and marked the first year since 2004 that it eclipsed $3 million.

President Bob Hannon said United Way gets about half its money from workplace donations, and while they haven’t seen a substantial increase in donors, the organization has seen an increase in the size of donations.

“Maybe donors typically gave $2 or $3 a week [out of their paycheck],” Hannon said. “Now they’re giving $4 or $5 a week.”

He credited the increased support to a recent shift in United Way’s business model. For 90 years, Hannon said United Way collected money and handed it out to local organizations, but now they’re establishing more direct partnerships and serving as a backbone by bringing partners together to make change.

“When you show that you’re impacting families in Youngstown in a positive way, [donors] like that,” he said.

The announcement was made at Taft Elementary School on the South Side. Hannon said it made sense to have the event there because United Way partnered with the school for its Success After Six program, which provides after-school programming to Taft students, and for its Young Women’s Mentorship Program, which pairs fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students at Taft with mentors from professional backgrounds. The organization also operates a food pantry at Taft.

The new donations will allow UW to expand programming to other Youngstown elementary schools this fall, Hannon said. They’ve also made a commitment to expand Success After Six to Girard. Girard has 71 percent of its students on free or reduced lunch, which Hannon said factored into the UW’s decision to pick it as its first school outside of Youngstown.

“We wouldn’t have been able to expand without this kind of campaign,” he said.

Gary Small, president and CEO of Home Savings and Loan Co. of Youngstown, served as campaign chairman.

The organization’s focus on early education is crucial, he said, because it’s the best way to head off issues students may encounter in the future.

“We put our money in up front instead of tripling it on the back end,” Small said.

Both Hannon and Small encouraged more businesses to participate in order to make 2017’s campaign even more successful. Hannon added the UW can always use more volunteers.

“We are a volunteer-driven organization,” Hannon said. “We’re trying to impact hundreds if not thousands of children and families, and we can’t do it alone.”