Our Towns

United Way Volunteers Package 20,000 Meals

NILES, Ohio – Ginny Pasha, president and CEO of United Way of Trumbull County, opened this year’s United Way campaign by asking volunteers to shout “live united.”

At Friday’s kickoff, 200 volunteers from 27 Trumbull County businesses – bankers, warehouse workers, board members of United Way and more – competed lightheartedly against other teams, rang cowbells, smiled and laughed while they packed some 20,000 meals for those in need. The meals will be sent to five food pantries across the county.

“We have, in the past, sent volunteers out to do light yard maintenance and light home repair for those who are financially or physically unable to take care of their yards,” Pasha said. “But this year, we decided to put a spotlight on food insecurity.”

Still, some volunteers completed yard projects for veterans, the disabled and seniors, and finished painting the interior of Someplace Safe, a women’s shelter in Warren.

“Teams this year were given a choice of an inside project, which is packing food, or an outside project, which is doing yard repair,” she said.

In the rear of the former Sears building at the Eastwood Mall, 10 stations were set up for volunteers in an assembly-line matter. The food product was provided by the Iowa-based meal-packaging group The Outreach Program. 

“They have a system that we have relied on to make it all work,” Pasha said. “Any project of this size requires a lot of effort and we started planning six or seven months ago. We’ve relied on help from others who have done this project, but we are excited to be able to accomplish so much in a short period of time.”

Many of the volunteers participate year after year in the campaign kickoff, Pasha said. New teams are always recruited, she added, such as volunteers from the Anderson-DuBose Co. this year. 

Food insecurity is important to Linsey Gray, who is on the board of directors for Trumbull United Way. Helping those who don’t have enough food is something United Way employees engage in when they can, she added. 

“All the stations are set up in direct order, so we’re putting the noodles in, there’s soy in there and then you put a packet in that has vitamins and cheese,” Gray said as she packed the meals. “You seal it, you date it and then 36 go in a box.”

Each package serves six meals of macaroni and cheese, and there are over 200 packages in every box. It’s a helpful project for people in need and it’s a nutritious meal for kids and adults, Gray said. 

One of the companies participating in the campaign kickoff was 717 Credit Union, which last year raised $29,000 for United Way through fundraisers and raffles. With 20 employees helping to package the meals, it was another opportunity for the credit union to give back to the community.

“Our participation has grown over the years,” said Matt Brophy, marketing manager of the credit union. “It’s wonderful to see so many people coming out, so many businesses being involved. I know we’re just one business, but to see everyone come together to support a cause, it’s wonderful.” 

Kathy Cook, president and CEO of St. Joseph Warren Hospital, led 30 Mercy Health volunteers at Friday’s event,. 

“We’re always looking for ways to interact,” Cook said. “We participate every year. When our leaders have that opportunity to give back, they feel more empowered to help our patients. That’s what we’re here for.” 

Pictured: Sherri Hull and Paul Hammond were some of the 200 volunteers at United Way of Trumbull County’s United Way at Work campaign kickoff Friday.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.