Centre County United Way surpasses campaign goal

crosenbl@centredaily.comFebruary 10, 2014 

— To a wave of applause, the numbers appeared, announcing a triumph.

Like some Winter Olympics athletes these days, the Centre County United Way scored an impressive figure Monday at its 2013 Volunteer Celebration at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel.

Volunteers each held up a card to form $2,149,146, the total from the 2013 campaign. It was official: The United Way had surpassed its goal of $2.1 million.

Executive Director Tammy Gentzel joined the cheering.

“This was a very hard year, believe it or not,” she said afterward. “The total doesn’t make it sound that way.”

Employee contributions were down about $145,000 from last year, Gentzel said. But corporate and private donations, she said, compensated for the loss.

“They were the ones who made a difference and put us over the top,” she said. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t have made it.”

Primarily with funds from the campaign and two Trash for Treasure sales of items donated by Penn State students, Centre County United Way supports more than 100 programs through 34 health and human service partner agencies across the county.

More than 69,000 people use United Way-funded programs or services, Gentzel said.

The United Way also organizes the annual Day of Caring community service event in October and other events such as Festival of Trees and Taste of the Town. In addition, the United Way helps run the Stewards of Children training program that teaches adults how to prevent, recognize and react to child sexual abuse.

Scott Lamb, the Centre County United Way board chairman, began Monday’s celebration by thanking the organization’s more than 1,000 volunteers.

“Without your help we would not be able to make Centre County a better place to live, funding programs for our 34 partner agencies, helping those in need and performing hundreds of projects that save thousands of dollars for nonprofits throughout Centre County,” Lamb said.

As in previous years, two major boosts propelled the United Way in 2013.

Thirty companies, including the Centre Daily Times, raised $530,096 during the Pacesetter Campaign, the precursor to the overall campaign.

And the Penn State Campaign generated a robust $845,000 from employee contributions and fundraisers.

“Penn State is a machine,” said George Downsbrough Jr., the campaign co-chairman.

Barbara Korner, dean of the College of Arts and Architecture and the chairwoman of the Penn State campaign, told the audience that Penn State volunteers raised about $165,000 alone with sales of T-shirts, cookbooks and other items, and benefit events such as a basketball-shooting competition and a golf tournament.

“We take that commitment very seriously, and we value the opportunity to support the Centre County community through the United Way,” Korner said.

During the program, the United Way also recognized PNC Bank, giving it the Col. Gerald F. Russell Day of Caring Award for 20 years of being the event’s sole sponsor and for annually contributing scores of volunteers.

Started in 2009, the award goes to volunteers, businesses or organizations for their outstanding service to the event founded by Russell, who could not attend Monday.

Nick Lingenfelter, community campaign co-chairman, thanked the entire county after the campaign total was revealed.

“It just goes to show when we all work together, we can accomplish great things,” he said. “United we can. United we will.”

As he spoke, monitors flanking the podium declared: “United We Did!” Gentzel thinks this year’s campaign again will rise to the occasion, provided it can increase employee campaigns, the United Way’s bread and butter, in a changing workforce.

“The fact that they are down is really the reality of people retiring, (and) downsizing in local businesses. And that’s the way it is,” Gentzel said.

“Until we can rebuild our relationships with those newer employees, we’re going to struggle there a little bit. But we’re really, really thrilled that we did as well as we did.”

 

Chris Rosenblum can be reached at 231-4620. Follow him on Twitter @CRosenblumNews.

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