100 Years to Day: United Way Celebrates

POLAND, Ohio – The United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley today begins the first day of its 101st year, following the launch of its Centennial Celebration Monday – 100 years after the exact day in 1919 when 11 business leaders created the Community Corporation – now part of its history.

The anniversary lunch took place at The Lake Club where one guest surprised United Way leaders by bringing with him a $200,000 pledge match, and those attending were surprised with a separate announcement that United Way will expand its headquarters at 255 Watt St. in Youngstown.

“We’re reinventing United Way for the next 100 years,” said Bob Hannon, president of the chapter.

To that end, Hannon and his staff are being challenged to create a wide-ranging program to teach expectant parents and the parents of very young children how physical and emotional trauma in the family inflicts lasting damage.

David Sabine, who administers the Gelbman Foundation on behalf of Huntington Bank, notified United Way leaders when he arrived that the foundation would provide $200,000 if the next annual campaign succeeds in securing $200,000 in donations from individuals and businesses that have never donated before.

The program Sabine wants to see created, “the earliest possible intervention in child care,” he explained, would be funded by “a portion” of the $200,000 pledge grant from the Gelbman Foundation.

During the campaign that just ended, in which the United Way raised $3,065,532, the Gelbman Foundation provided a $125,000 pledge grant, which the United Way met.

Also announced was a $100,000 grant from the James and Coralie Centofanti Charitable Foundation to underwrite construction of 2,500-square-foot addition to the United Way headquarters. The expansion project, expected to break ground this spring, will be named for the Centofanti family, Hannon said.

The United Way president offered a brief history of the organization formed in the aftermath of World War I “to keep the war chest going,” he began.

In 1919, the inaugural annual campaign raised $328,000. Beginning in the 1940s, when federal law authorized payroll deductions, workplace campaigns became the norm. By 1956, the annual campaign had reached $1 million, $2 million by 1976 and $3 million in 1988.

Hannon introduced his immediate predecessor, Donald Cagigas, who served eight years, and Bill Brennan, who headed the chapter 30 years. And he introduced the four “presenting sponsors” of the Centennial Campaign: Greenwood Chevrolet, PNC Bank, The Muransky Companies and Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC.

“They give. They advocate. They volunteer. And this year we asked them to do a little bit more,” Hannon said.

Greg Greenwood, owner-operator of the dealership in Austintown, drew a parallel with the mantra of his company “going the extra mile.” The United Way demonstrates “just how impactful going the extra mile can be for people in need,” he said.

“It is our responsibility to rejoin the fight and continue to carry out a mission that started 100 years ago.”

Ted Schmidt, regional president of PNC Bank and chairman of the United Way Board of Directors, praised Hannon and his staff for shifting to the “impact model.”

In 2012, the chapter followed the United Way of America and transitioned from raising and distributing funds to directing financial and human resources to effect key community needs and facilitate change.

“PNC has a passion for early childhood education and we couldn’t have a better partner than United Way,” Schmidt said.

The Youngstown chapter introduced in 2009 the Success By 6 program that focuses on readiness for kindergarten and in 2015 added Success After 6, a program “in large part made possible by the support of presenting sponsors, Chris and Ed Muransky,” Hannon said.

Today, more than 700 children are getting “wraparound services. That’s everything from food, clothing, and homework help, the Oh Wow! museum … and physical fitness.”

In her remarks, Chris Muransky shared with the audience, “I’m a new grandmother. When I see the attention that our granddaughter gets, all the reading to her, all the care, I realize there are so many children who are not fortunate enough to have that attention focused on them, who are in disadvantaged homes. I am especially touched by the work we do with children.”

Bob Stackhouse filled in for Doug Sweeney and Alexa Sweeney Blackann, who are out of town, and represented Sweeney Chevrolet, the fourth presenting sponsor.

“Our employees’ pledges have grown by double percentages in each of the last three campaign years,” said Stackhouse, general sales manager and a partner in the Sweeney dealership. “We can literally see the impact these dollars are having on our community.

As part of the year-long Centennial Celebration, United Way will relaunch its planned giving legacy society, host the president of the United Way of America at a fundraiser, and invite the community to a black-tie gala in May, Hannon said.

United Way of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley currently funds 51 programs in education and emergency services operated by 35 agencies. Since it was founded Feb. 11, 1919, the agency has distributed more than $165 million.

Pictured at top: Representatives of the Centennial Celebration presenting sponsors: Ed Muransky, Bob Stackhouse, Chris Muransky, Greg Greenwood, United Way President Bob Hannon, and Ted Schmidt.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.