United Way Triumphs with $3.3M Raised in Challenging Year

POLAND, Ohio – Bob Hannon, president of the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, credits the leadership his organization showed during the coronavirus pandemic for its ability to raise more than $3.3 million during its 2020 campaign.  

“It’s a celebration of the accomplishments of 2020 really, to thank our contributors, our volunteers, all of our stakeholders,” Hannon said at the organization’s annual meeting Tuesday. “And – maybe more than any other year – [it gets] us all together.”

Nearly 200 guests attended the event, held at The Lake Club and carried virtually for those who didn’t attend in person. 

The 2020 campaign was the second-best in the United Way chapter’s 101-year history, matched only by its Centennial Campaign, he said. He attributed that success to the leadership it showed during the pandemic, bringing together partners “to do some really good work.” 

The effect of COVID-19 on the United Way chapter was a recurrent theme throughout the program, from its effects on existing programs and fundraising efforts to new initiatives launched to address needs in the community. 

When the chapter’s board met in early March 2020, no one knew what to expect from the annual campaign, Hannon recalled. Two days later, the staff met and declared that the United Way was “built for a crisis,” and could bring partners together. 

“It was tough, not being able to go face to face, not being able to go out and tell our story,” he said. “Half the money the chapter raises is through workplace giving. For us, coming and talking to companies about what we do is much more impactful than sitting through a Zoom meeting.”  

Hannon also credited the success of the campaign to Kevin Helmick, president and CEO of Farmers National Bank, who took on the challenge of being the campaign chairman. Farmers increased both its corporate giving and the participation from its workplace campaign. 

“Your credibility in the community helped other people look at the United Way even more positively,” Hannon said.   

The early stage of the pandemic brought with it uncertainty and increased need, Helmick said, and supporters of United Way came through in major ways.

“Just to see everyone come out and support [us] with their time, talent and treasure was really humbling,” Helmick said. “We need to continue to do it. The need is real. You can see from these stories. It doesn’t end as the pandemic goes away.”

Early on, United Way staff contacted the 36 agencies the chapter supports to see how it could help them and funded other agencies as well, including Gleaners Food Bank. In addition, they reached out to local schools to explore partnership opportunities. Through the schools, United Way distributed $125,000 in grocery store gift cards to students and their families.

United Way also partnered with The Muransky Companies to launch its Satur-Day of Caring program to deliver food to people who can’t or shouldn’t leave their homes because of the pandemic. Initially serving about 100 households, the campaign now provides food to 335 homes through funds provided by Mahoning County. It likely will continue beyond the pandemic to provide services to seniors, young mothers and others who need it. 

In addition to providing food, the program provides needed human contact for participants. Over the course of the year, United Way added about 400 new volunteers to its roster.

“We knew we could help people with food. We didn’t realize the social-emotional piece that would grow out of this,” Hannon said.      

This year’s campaign, which has a $3 million goal, will be led by Christopher Sammartino, Muransky Companies chief operating officer, and his wife, Lisa. He serves on the United Way board and they both participate in its report card mentors program.

“We both felt that we could make a difference,” Sammartino said. “There’s a lot of need out there, especially with the younger children.”

Also announced at the meeting was the return of the organization’s largest event, Champions Among Us, which will take place June 1 and feature an evening with Ohio State University head football coach Ryan Day and YSU President Jim Tressel, the Buckeyes’ former head coach. The Muransky Companies Bass Classic will return June 5.

Michael Schrock, Mahoning Valley market president of TCF Bank, title sponsor for the event, thanked Hannon and his staff “for the difference they made in the Valley and the wonderful partners they are to work with.” 

Schrockalso offered a reflection based on the famous holiday film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which the lead character, led to suicide by repeated perceived failures, is shown by an angel how his never having been born would have affected his loved ones and his town. 

“What would the Valley be like without the United Way of Youngstown?” he said. “I cannot even begin to put a picture on that for you, but I think we would all agree in this room that based on the work the United Way of Youngstown does, there would be many people without their needs fulfilled, especially in this pandemic year.” 

“For the past year, it really seemed like the world stood still, but many of us in this room continued moving – our great nonprofits, our partners, our schools,” said Roxann Sebest, recently named director of resource development.  “We wanted to make sure that those who are most vulnerable were taken care of.” 

During the program, the United Way chapter presented awards to several businesses, foundations and individuals. 

Among the awards presented during the program was the Parker McHenry Board Excellence Award, named for the bank executive who served on the United Way board for 38 years and who died last year. It was presented to outgoing chairman Ted Schmidt, PNC Bank Youngstown regional president, whose two-year term was extended by a year to help navigate the challenges of the pandemic.  

“He held us to a very high standard,” Sebest said. 

The honorees are:

  • Top Workplace Campaign: The Muransky Companies
  • Top Foundation Gift: Frank and Pearl Gelbman Foundation
  • Top New Workplace Campaign: Westside Rite and Service Inc. 
  • Campaign Leadership Award: Cathy Grimm, Farmers National Bank
  • Labor Leadership Award; Operating Engineers Local 66
  • Impact Leadership Award: Jane F. Lamb Charitable Foundation and William M. Neckerman Jr. Charitable Foundation
  • Dedicated Service Award: David Sabine, Huntington Bank, 898 Marketing
  • Volunteer Excellence Award: Youngstown State University football coaches and team, Youngstown State University Basketball coaches and team
  • Rising Star Award: Gabriella Pantelakis, Canfield high School
  • Campaign Chair Award: Kevin Helmick, Farmers National Bank
  • Parker McHenry Board Excellence Award: Ted Schmidt, PNC Bank

Also honored were Adopt-A-School participants:  The DeBartolo Corp. – Denise and John York; Huntington National Bank; Gloria Jones and Fireline Inc., in memory of Roger D. Jones; Southwoods Health and Chris and Ed Muransky; The Andrews Foundation; Aim Transportation Solutions; and Farmers National Bank.

Pictured: Kevin Helmick, chairman of United Way’s 2020 campaign, was honored for his leadership during a turbulent year and leading the organization to its second-best campaign ever.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.