United Way breaks ground on new volunteer center
Main offices remain downtown
BOARDMAN — The United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley is embarking on a new journey with a new Volunteer Resource Center, breaking ground Monday on the facility at 8133 Market St.
“During the pandemic, we needed to shift in how we deliver services to those most in need, and with that we experienced an incredible growth in volunteers willing to help us,” said Bob Hannon, president of United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley. “Our loyal donor Ed Muransky came to us and said the community could benefit from a volunteer resource center, a physical space to serve as a true hub for the Valley.”
United Way’s main offices will remain in downtown Youngstown on Watt Street. The Boardman location was chosen to provide a more centralized location for those traveling from all parts of the Mahoning Valley to volunteer.
Between 2020 and 2022, United Way engaged more than 700 volunteers for the very first time through their various initiatives that were created out of needs that arose during the pandemic. Saturday of Caring was the first that occurred.
During the height of the COVID-19 shutdown, United Way and the Muransky Family started delivering food to seniors, shut-ins and those who could not get out because of the virus. It started with 100 families and 40 volunteers for eight weeks straight. Saturday of Caring continues every third Saturday of the month with 150 volunteers and 450 families served.
This will be one of many initiatives to take place out of the new center, which is made possible by a $1 million donation from the James and Coralie Centofanti Charitable Foundation.
“The James and Coralie Centofanti Charitable Foundation is honored to partner with the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley for the Centofanti Volunteer Resource Center,” said Joe Centofanti, brother of James Centofanti. “Jim and Coralie Centofanti would be very proud of how this new facility will further strengthen the tremendous volunteerism of the people in our Valley to serve those individuals and families with needs within our community.”
The United Way also received $1.5 million for construction of the new 11,000-square foot facility from U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s 2022 Federal Appropriations of Congressionally Directed Spending.
“Youngstown has a strong legacy of hard work and community,” said Brown, D-Cleveland. “United Way’s Volunteer Resource Center will build on that proud history, and ensure Ohioans stay connected and get critical services they need. That’s why we fought for the federal investment making this center possible.”
The volunteer resource center will have two main spaces. One is warehouse space named after longtime Hubbard St. Patrick Church pastor Tim O’Neill’s The Difference Makers to carry on his legacy of feeding the poor. The warehouse will store food, clothing, school supplies, hygiene products and other items used for United Way’s various programs and initiatives.
Last school year, United Way launched Care Closets as a part of their Success After 6 initiative, which provides wraparound services to schools throughout the Valley. Ten schools house a Care Closet within their buildings, and they are stocked with all the products the students may need to be successful in and out of the classroom. Following the pandemic, schools were reaching out to United Way to help with food, clothing, school supplies and hygiene kits. These Care Closets now serve more than 5,000 students and their families in Austintown, Boardman and Youngstown.
“Our office in downtown Youngstown is packed with all of these products, so the warehouse space will allow us to expand to help more schools and more students,” Hannon said.
The building also will provide a workspace for volunteers to gather to work on various projects that will be taken to the Success After 6 schools or with Saturday of Caring prep, which takes place on the day of the deliveries. The volunteer resource center will provide more opportunities for volunteers to help throughout the week. It also will be a space that other non-profits can utilize for their projects as well. United Way anticipates thousands of volunteers to walk through the doors every year.