(Editor's note: This article was originally published in Our Town and is being published here with permission.)
Our Town Correspondent
United Way of the Laurel Highlands leaders announced a 2022 Campaign goal of $1.2 million during the organization's campaign kickoff breakfast, held Sept. 15 at the Living Learning Center of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.
“When you talk about quality of life, how we care for one another is important. We’ve experienced a great deal of change since I first volunteered with United Way in 1992, but a constant is your support," campaign committee member Ed Sheehan, president of CTC, said. “This year’s goal is ambitious. We’ll need everyone to work hard as needs remain to be addressed. You are helping to change the lives of people today, as well as the trajectory of the lives of their children and future generations.”
Keynote speaker Rob Forcey, publisher of The Tribune-Democrat, shared a personal experience concerning challenges in providing quality childcare to support early childhood development.
He explained that during his tenure as a publisher in upstate New York, he and his wife made the tough decision that she would suspend her career in banking as their childcare costs matched her earnings.
“I wanted to get involved in early childhood development from that point on. Since coming here, my wife has found a new passion working as a para-educator, and she is now pursuing her degree,” Forcey said. “The United Way, 1889 Foundation and Community Foundation for the Alleghenies are collaborating to determine gaps in early childhood development. For instance, there are 9,000 children locally, but only 6,000 daycare and pre-K slots.
“This is something we can fix. We need to make sure all children get a good start in life."
In her opening remarks, United Way President and CEO Karen Struble Myers reported on achievements and initiatives launched in the past year:
- During the past two years the United Way of the Laurel Highlands maintained funding for its 24 member agencies at pre-pandemic levels.
- Since the launch of its Diaper Bank in February, more than 75,000 diapers have been collected for community distribution.
- Since 2017, its grant writing program has secured $10.7 million to support initiatives in Cambria and Somerset counties, including most recently, a $1.6 million multi-year grant to support the 21st century learning program at the Flood City Youth Academy.
- A pilot program that debuted in August at the Downtown Johnstown Farmer’s Market is a win for local farmers, as well as for community members using SNAP benefits, formerly called food stamps, resulting in a $5,000 increase in sales.
- During the past year, the organization touched the lives of 58,000 people in Cambria and Somerset counties, including referrals for those seeking assistance with housing, rent, food insecurity, home heating and domestic violence.
For additional information and to contribute to this year’s United Way campaign, visit uwlaurel.org.