The message wasn't about opening wallets and donating cash during the 2016 United Way Campaign Kick Off event, held this week at Housing Transitions in State College. The message, instead, was focused on more local involvement and increasing an already healthy partner network.
Tammy Gentzel, executive director of the United Way, said the organization is now moving away from setting funding goals and instead will attempt to increase the number of partner agencies involved. She said funding and donations will continue to be crucial for the program; however, she noted those looking for the United Way thermometer to gauge the status of the donations won't be able to find one. Instead, the long-standing staple mark of the organization will be replaced with the message, "What will you Live United for?
"On behalf of the Centre County United Way Partner Network, I invite everyone in Centre County to live United," she said. "Join us as we fight for the basic needs of every citizen in our community. We are excited for the future. We can make great things happen ... together."
Tracy Spalvins was in attendance at the press conference. Always wanting to be a State College homeowner, she sought out the services of two United Way partner organizations in helping her find that dream home. She utilized the services of the State College Community Land Trust, a UW partner agency, which assists first-time home buyers.
"Not only was I able to purchase a home through this program, but they provided me with homeowner education as well as pre-purchase budget counseling," she said. "As a matter of fact, some of that budget counseling actually took place right here at Housing Transitions."
She said through this interaction with State College Community Land Trust, she was able to meet with another partner organization — Mid-Penn Legal Services. She said the people there walked her through her land lease and closing documents.
"The State College Community Land Trust, Mid-Penn Legal Services and the Centre County United Way all helped me realize my dream of becoming a homeowner in the community where I work and live," she said. "Their collaboration exemplifies the idea of Live United. I encourage everyone to help build a stronger community and support the Centre County United Way and its partner agencies."
Following Spalvins' talk, Gentzel introduced the honorary campaign co-chairmen, Dr. Eric Barron, president of Penn State University, and Lee Myers, health care executive with Geisinger Health System. Both men discussed the importance of the United Way's efforts in the community, and continued to pledge their support for the group.
The United Way Campaign co-chairs for 2016 are Chris Hosterman, a financial adviser from Wienken Wealth Management and Fran Stevenson, a United Way Partner Network volunteer.
"As co-chairs of this year's campaign, (Fran) and I are focused on increasing the size of our partnership by recruiting more volunteers, more advocates and more donors," said Hosterman. "We are here today to invite every employee and every resident of Centre County to join this network."
Stevenson said some success has already been realized.
"From Feb. 1 of this year to today, we have already enjoyed great success by raising almost $40,000," she said. "Included in this amount are businesses who act as pacesetters for the campaign; our pacesetters raised $173,500. Also included are the staff and volunteers of the 35 service providers who are the core of the Centre County United Way partner network. Despite continued cuts to their own funding and an incredibly difficult year that included no state funding for over nine months, they raised $50,000. They are a true testament to the value of United Way funding."
The Centre County United Way office is located at 126 W. Pine Grove Road in Pine Grove Mills.
For more information, call (814) 238-8283 or visit www.ccunitedway.org.