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United Way continues to provide services for those in need

By Katie Demeria

WINCHESTER -- After raising over $1 million in 2013, the United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley is working to bring attention to those who need it most.

Last year, the organization raised $1,109,000 as part of a continued effort to give help to nonprofit agencies throughout the area, according to president Joe Shtulman.

"It was all done through a lot of effort by the community," Shtulman said.

The United Way works with agencies within Frederick, Shenandoah and Clarke counties, as well as the city of Winchester. Donations are raised entirely by volunteers, who work with various divisions within the organization.

The Special Events Division held larger events that included Rubbermaid product sales and Wii corporate challenges. They raised 176 percent of their goal, going above and beyond their requirements, according to Shtulman.

The Top 20 Division, which includes the United Way's largest accounts, was able to raise $13,000 more than previous years.

The United Way is also part of the Combined Federal Campaign, which allows federal employees to give to organizations through payroll deduction.

"Everyone works incredibly hard to do all this for those who are in need," Shtulman said.

Though the $1,109,000 only accounted for 96 percent of the United Way's ultimate 2013 goal, Shtulman said he has high hopes for 2014 -- not just in relation to monetary goals, but in the difference the organization hopes to make to the region.

"Every year we do Community Needs Assessment, and identify in what areas local individuals are requiring the most aid," he said.

Assessments work to pinpoint those areas in the most need throughout the community, he added.

The latest assessments highlighted several areas that require attention, including the wellbeing of senior citizens and those with mental illnesses.

"We identified an increasing amount of senior needs in the area," Shtulman said. "It's one of the fastest growing demographics within the region. To them, the most important thing is being able to continue living within their homes."

In an attempt to meet those needs, the United Way worked with 800 volunteers to retrofit seniors' homes and make them both comfortable and more accessible.

Following a national initiative to raise awareness for those with mental health issues, the United Way also held a community dialogue at Lord Fairfax Community College in which 14 individuals shared their personal stories relating to mental health.

"This is a very, very important issue," Shtulman said. "And we want to continue to help where we can. People should know that there are treatments available, and that there are achievable things they can do to help."

Shtulman said the United Way is working to improve the mental health services in the area and create a clear route for those who think they need help.

"A lot of them feel stigmatized, and we want to work to end that," he said. "The United Way serves as an important link between people in need and the resources they need."

The areas getting attention now, he continued, are those that require it most, which is part of the United Way's ultimate goal.

"We are the route through which people can go to find out what requires the most help, and how they can provide service," he said.

The United Way accepts donations throughout the year, and those funds are not limited to supporting the Shenandoah Valley area. Shtulman said individuals can designate their donations to any United Way agency throughout the country.

For those seeking grants for their own agencies in 2014, the organization will hold a second training program on Jan. 23 at 3 p.m. Email info@unitedwaynsv.org for more information.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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