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Centre County United Way pulls in $1.9 million in annual campaign

The Centre County United Way announced the results of its most recent campaign on Monday with an event celebrating the effort.
The Centre County United Way announced the results of its most recent campaign on Monday with an event celebrating the effort. Photo provided

Months of fundraising have culminated in almost $2 million for local service agencies.

But it wasn’t as much as last year.

The Centre County United Way announced the results of its most recent campaign on Monday with an event celebrating the effort.

“We want to hammer home the fact that we are working with both donors and volunteers and partner agencies to live united as advocates for education, financial stability and good health,” said Executive Director Tammy Gentzel. “We are working together to move people toward success.”

The Centre County United Way works with 34 partner agencies, organizations like the local chapter of the American Red Cross and the Centre County Library, to provide funding for much-needed services in the community. Gentzel said the United Way campaign mobilizes hundreds of volunteers to reach out to thousands of donors throughout the county.

The annual fundraising push pulled in $1,934,011. That was $114,000 less than the previous campaign, about 6 percent of the total.

Six percent might not seem like very much, but with all of those agencies struggling to make the most of their donated dollars, it can have a big impact.

Gentzel says the shortfall is almost equal to the amount of money that the Centre County Youth Service Bureau gets from United Way each year.

“For them we are funding critical programs for youth at risk for all kinds of problems, some of whom are actually homeless,” Gentzel said.

Only the YMCA of Centre County receives more funding than the YSB each year. That funding goes to sending food home with underprivileged kids through a backpack program that feeds them over the weekend or to the Open Doors program that funds participation at the Y for families around the county who can’t afford fees and costs.

“I want to send out a challenge to our community and to everyone here tonight,” said campaign co-chair Chris Hosterman. “I do not want to diminish the impact of the funds raised this year but the reality is we have to do better in the future. The demand for services has been increasing over the last few years. The partnership our agencies represent is the most efficient way to address human service needs in Centre County.”

Gentzel attributed the reduction in part to complications with the critically important employee campaigns as longtime, higher-paid baby boomers retire and are replaced with lower-paid younger workers.

“There is the attrition of employees, and the number of employees decreasing and those being hired are entry level employees without the disposable income to donate,” she said. “That’s something we need to address because, unfortunately those in need are not declining. There are fewer jobs now that have good strong wages attached to them.”

Gentzel said there are ideas in development for addressing that issue, but they will take time to put in play.

The end of the campaign, however, is not the end of giving.

We accept money 12 months out of the year,” she said. “The campaign is to establish a sense of urgency and for employee campaigns to have a structure. We are out on the streets, meeting with people, signing up year-round.”

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce

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