United Way celebrates year, thanks volunteers

VIENNA — “Change doesn’t happen alone.”

The United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley shared that message Wednesday morning at the Community Leaders Breakfast at Grand Pointe Conference Center in Vienna. It was the kickoff event for the annual campaign that officially launched Wednesday and will run through March.

Stacy DeCicco, executive director of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley, said the organization raised over $1 million last year.

“It was exciting for a moment, then we realized it wasn’t enough; we still have deficits of what we needed to do to support the community. That’s a lofty goal; we need to make sure we repeat that,” DeCicco said.

The event began by recognizing accomplishments from this year.

“This truly is a celebration today of all we’ve done together,” DeCicco said. The Battle of the Banks was among the projects this year. During that event, participants packed 3,800 backpack kits that were distributed for weekend food support for children.

The Day of Action brought over 350 volunteers.

“I want you to understand how valuable it is when folks come out and give a day of service to some of these nonprofits,” DeCicco said.

Kraton and Chemours were recognized for going above and beyond to volunteer their time, money and resources to make a difference in the community.

Under normal circumstances, DeCicco explained that she would have gone from door to door to get funds for their projects. However, Roger Lockhart at WVU Medicine Camden Clark Medical Center approached the organization to sponsor the Day of Action.

The hospital received the community partner of the year award.

“We’re so excited to be unveiling a new partnership with Penske,” DeCicco said. The program is called “Driving for Impact with Penske” and will start in October.

A Penske truck will be provided once a quarter to collect and transport donations that are collected throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley and “deliver those to the organizations that can be the most greatly impacted by them. We couldn’t do that alone,” she said.

United Way will be in partnership with businesses in the area to collect for specific items that are needed. For the participating businesses, United Way offers to set up boxes, create signs and promote the drive on a Facebook page.

“Think United Way first” was the theme for the morning. The message is for the community to realize that whether it be reaching out for help or finding a place to volunteer, “Think United Way First.”

To go along with the theme of “first,” Rebekah Mathis-Stump from Ethos Leadership Group shared a message.

“There’s something about being first that calls us to something bigger, to be trail blazers,” she said. “You can’t be a trail blazer if you don’t actually leave a trail for others to follow … we open up the possibility for others to follow.”

Mathis-Stump said the United Way is the “first” to pick up the phone when someone calls and says they need help.

” ‘First’ asks us to take an unformed dream and mold it. We mold that unformed dream into a vision with words and ideas and actions that can go with it,” she said.

To close out the event, Mathis-Stump posed a question: “What will you do today to partner with the United Way and be first? There’s a line of people waiting for you and for me to blaze that trail.”

To DeCicco, the highlight of the event was “looking at (over) 200 people and looking at all the partners we have and looking out and seeing that many people championing the work that we do.” She explained that “we always want to be that conduit. It doesn’t matter if you need help or you want to give help. We want people to think United Way first.”