United Way Ends Centennial with Record $3.45M Raised

POLAND, Ohio – Looking back at the century of work his organization has accomplished, Bob Hannon sees big differences in how the work of United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley gets done.

But what hasn’t changed since 1919, the organization’s president said, is the mission. And looking forward to the bicentennial celebration in 2119, he doesn’t expect the purpose to be too much different than what was celebrated Monday at The Lake Club.

“We’ll continue to be the backbone to support people with the greatest need. We eliminate barriers for those who face challenges,” Hannon said. “Even though the model may look different a hundred years from now, the nuts and bolts of United Way will still be helping our neighbors in need.”

To that end, the agency’s centennial fundraising campaign raised $3,454,454, an all-time record, beating out the $3.35 million raised in 1991.

The first campaign in 1919 – with First National Bank of Youngstown President Asael E. Adam serving as chairman – raised $328,234. Since it was founded, United Way has raised $168 million.

The difference between last year’s campaign and the 1991 campaign is where the money comes from. In 1991, nearly three-quarters of the amount raised came from workplace efforts. 

“Now, it’s only about 48%. We’ve had to look at new ways to raise money: larger corporate gifts, more foundation support, more events, more sponsorships,” Hannon said. “My goal is always to raise at least $3 million. It’s harder now because you can’t sit back and expect companies to send a check every month.”

The other methods of fundraising have been seeing success, he adds. A black-tie gala raised more than $300,000, the highest single-event total in the local United Way’s history. Also on the calendar were the Holiday Basketball Classic, the Bass Classic fishing tournament and Locker 1 & 2 Golf Outing.

To help fundraising in the United Way’s centennial year, the Frank and Pearl Gelbman Foundation committed to matching new and increased giving.

The money raised supports United Way’s initiatives countywide, as well as the 35 organizations it supports, a list which include YMCA of Youngstown, Catholic Charities, Boys & Girls Clubs of Youngstown and Sojourner House. Among the United Way’s programs are Success By 6, Success After 6, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and mentorship programs.

“If you have any doubt about the work United Way does, look at these children. They’re the reason we do what we do. We make sure that the dollars we hand out are used wisely and go where there’s greatest need in the community,” said Christine Muransky, a member of United Way’s impact committee. 

She spoke on behalf of The Muransky Companies, one of the four centennial sponsors – joining Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, PNC Bank and Greenwood Chevrolet – and the largest workplace contributor to the fundraising effort.

Rounding out the top five were Compco Industries, Youngstown City School District, Dearing Compressor and Pump, and Home Savings Bank.

An active participant in United Way for 25 years, PNC Regional President Ted Schmidt said his last two as board chairman have been some of the easiest thanks to the effort of Hannon, the board and volunteers.

“This has been a really fulfilling year,” he said. “They do a wonderful job making friends and making business relationships. We would not get the job done without them. We’re reaching thousands of people in this community because of our sponsors and volunteers.”

As he looked back through United Way’s records, Hannon saw a few names pop up time and time again over its century of work. On that list was Sweeney.

“It’s the core of what we do and what we believe in. A legacy of giving is what makes me most proud to grow up in this business. Our family business history greatly mirrors our community’s and the United Way’s,” said Alexa Sweeney Blackann, vice president of Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC. “When you give to the United Way, you’re giving at the grassroots level and directly helping those in need.”

And as the second century of work begins at United Way of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley, Greenwood Chevrolet general sales manager Anthony Fusillo hearkened back to Year One. It was a different time in Youngstown, as industry surged and the city it is today began to take shape.

“It’s hard to imagine the excitement in the Roaring 20s and the industrial boom of Youngstown when we began this journey, but it’s not hard to imagine the need that we have to help our neighbors live their best life through targeted giving,” Fusillo said. “Each decade has its own challenges, but every year the United Way shows up. They show up and deliver on their promise.”

Pictured: Celebrating the record-setting fundraising campaign are Doug Sweeney, Alexa Sweeney Blackann, Christine Muransky, Ed Muransky, Bob Hannon Anthony Fusillo and Ted Schmidt. Students from Youngstown Community School (in front) are Jeremiah Bankston, Michael Frankling, Jermylin White, Mackenya Peoples and Justin Mahone.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.