Trumbull United Way Full of ‘Hope’ After Challenging Year

NILES, Ohio — The 160 community leaders, advocates and volunteers who attended the United Way of Trumbull County’s annual meeting Thursday all played a part in making sure the county made it through the pandemic, even if it was probably the first time they’d all been in the same room together in quite a while.

“Our message today is one of hope,” said United Way of Trumbull County President Ginny Pasha.

The meeting, held at the Eastwood Event Centre and sponsored by the Cafaro Foundation, was the first held by United Way since 2019.

Pasha said the biggest challenge the organization faced in 2020 was making sure all of United Way’s partner agencies had the resources needed to meet the increased demand. Food, shelter, mental health and housing instability were at the top of the list.

“Those were all areas that a survey we did showed were the top issues facing Trumbull County,” she said.

Through their COVID Relief fund, United Way was able to raise enough money to meet those needs.

“We got through 2020 and we’re now looking forward to moving on with our strategic plan 2023.”

One of United Way’s focus areas that took a hit during the pandemic was its third-grade literacy program. The program, which takes place in the schools, had to be put on hold after students began learning from home.

Still, United Way was able to make progress in that area in 2020.

In August, work began on the Born Learning Trail at Perkins Park in Warren, which offers 10 interactive signs that encourage physical activity and learning.

They also launched the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library, “which couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Pasha. Through the program United Way was able to send books directly to the homes of more than 2,700 children each month.

Another way the organization was able to focus on children during the pandemic was through the new Spokes Kids program.

“Back in 2019, we had this idea that we got from another United Way in Atlanta, Ga.,” said resource development manager Christine Cope.

Bailey Tolios, a student from Lakeview, and Cadence Treich, a student from Champion, were selected to be the first spokes kids of the United Way after tryouts were held the previous summer.

“The idea is that while they’re out doing interviews and appearing in ads and on social media, they learn what it means to volunteer, and we provided opportunities for them to do that here in our community,” said Cope.

In 2021, Tolios and Treich will be joined by a third spokes kid, Aniyah March of Niles.

Moving forward, Pasha said the organization plans to address systemic issues in the county based on recently held conversations with the community.

“We just carried on and did the best we could to make sure Trumbull County survived and thrived during the pandemic,” she said.

During the program the United Way presented awards to several organizations and individuals.

Mark Marvin, of the Downtown Development Group, and Ken Haidaris, of Sunrise Entertainment, LLC, received the Advocate Awards.

Volunteer Awards went to Dana Warren-Tolios, of the Middlefield Banking Company, Barton Malow and Laborers Local 935.

The Give, Advocate and Volunteer Award was presented to 717 Credit Union and TEMA Roofing Services.

Special awards were also presented to several individuals who volunteered to sew facemasks for frontline workers.

They were:
• Ardele Alfonsi
• Gayle Beil
• Shirley Davis
• Danielle Durkin
• Linda Gee
• Marian Hecker
• Janet Jarrett
• Susan Kidd
• Sue Kisak
• Natalia Kresic
• Sherry Moliterno
• Julia Vandergriff

Board members Kathy Kiniklis and Eric Lanham were recognized for their service as the chairpersons of United Way’s board of directors in 2019 and 2020.

Pictured: Attending Thurdsay’s event were United Way of Trumbull County President Ginny Pasha, Jim Ledenko of the Laborers’ Local 935, Ron Hasenbusch and Ken Boyea of the Barton Malow Co., and Kathy Kiniklis, chair of the United Way’s board of directors.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.