United Way Mahoning Valley Responds to Needs

By Roxann Sebest
Vice President, United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley evolved in 2022, taking the lessons we learned and challenges we overcame during the pandemic into the new year.

Our programming remains focused on early education and emergency services, but with new initiatives that have grown out of the needs presented the past three years.

Satur-Day of Caring grew with more individuals and families added to the monthly delivery list. Every third Saturday of the month, 150 volunteers pack and deliver food to seniors and shut-ins throughout the Valley. Led by the Muransky family and with funding provided by the American Recovery Plan through the Mahoning County Board of Commissioners, 5,050 deliveries were made in 2022.

United Way works closely with all Mahoning County school districts as well as Girard, Liberty and Hubbard in Trumbull County through our Success By 6 and Success After 6 initiatives. During the summer of 2022, Success By 6 returned fully to in-person learning, reaching 650 kids.

United Way also distributed 100 kindergarten readiness bags to students who did not take part in Success By 6. We also registered 6,906 in the Imagination Library free book program, an increase of 28% that included a significant increase in children from Youngstown.

Success After 6 started the 2022-23 school year with eight afterschool sites – expanding to Valley Christian, Sebring and Austintown Elementary schools – and now serves a total of 435 students.

Under these initiatives, United Way has fulfilled emergency requests from teachers and administrators.

In an effort to impact more children, we launched the Care Closet initiative. Six Care Closets are present in three school districts – Youngstown, Boardman, and Austintown. The closets provide food, clothing, school supplies, hygiene kits and other essential items.

Care kits, which include hygiene kits, winter gear, school supplies and food vouchers, are provided to other districts.

Mentoring programs continue to be an important component of Success After 6 and we were able to return to in-person meetings after a two-year hiatus.

The Young Women’s Mentorship program expanded into Youngstown Community School  and East Middle School. It also takes place at Taft Elementary and Boardman Center Intermediate schools. Students in grades 5 through 8 are paired with female mentors and meet weekly or monthly. 

Report card mentoring is taking place in the Martin Luther King and Youngstown Community schools and in Liberty schools. Students in grades 5 through 8 meet with mentors quarterly to go over their grades, attendance and behavior and learn how to set goals.

Since the pandemic, United Way’s volunteer base has significantly increased and now numbers more than 500. We are looking to build a Volunteer Resource Center in 2023 with money received from a federal grant.

Despite the economic downturn and inflation, fundraising efforts remain strong, thanks to the generosity of Mahoning Valley residents. United Way’s 2021 campaign resulted in a record-breaking $3.47 million. We will announce our 2022 campaign in late February.

Growth is attributed to programs and the growing commitment of the Women United affinity group that helped raise nearly $40,000 through their own efforts and fundraisers. United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley was founded in 1919.