United Way leaders optimistic about campaign

By Ryan Cornell

WINCHESTER — Volunteers, community members and business leaders celebrated a cheery Halloween morning as status reports from the United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley offered a bright outlook.

Friday’s public report meeting announced the status of its fundraising campaign and recognized key contributions made to the area nonprofit.

The goal of this year’s campaign is $1.13 million, a slight uptick from the $1.1 million raised last year. Current figures sit at $625,986, a $3,188 increase from last October’s sum.

More than half of that total, $386,807, comes from the “Top 20” division.

First Bank CEO Scott Harvard, leader of the division, said they’ve raised 84 percent of their target amount, and said early results are positive.

“This is a united community with a cause,” he said.

Other division totals include $47,375 from major firms, $9,661 from commerce and small business, $8,532 from public service, $51,061 from education, $34,764 from individual gifts, $20,275 from professionals, $38,922 from special events, $5,500 from development, $5,027 from miscellaneous and $18,062 from a combined federal campaign.

As leader of the education division, Shenandoah County Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Raley spoke about the impact the United Way’s efforts have on ensuring students receive a quality education.

He said he’s asked staff in his school division for payroll deductions to support the United Way. Just a $5 deduction per month among staff, he said, has the potential to raise about $60,000 per year.

Chris Scott, executive director of the American Red Cross’ Top of Virginia chapter, shared how the United Way is helping the Red Cross provide lodging, food and clothing to families recovering from a house fire.

“While a lot of us sit down for Monday Night Football,” he said, “a family not two miles from here had a house fire and lost their entire home on Monday night.”

He said the Red Cross chapter helped serve 72 households and 232 people last year.

Fundraising kicked off in August with the Pacesetters campaign, said United Way President Joe Shtulman, though “the hard part is next.”

“[Campaign Chairman] Ron Kaplan has a fantastic team of volunteers,” he said. “They do a tremendous job in making a difference and work hard to help people in need.”

United Way leaders praised the service given at the Day of Caring in September. More than 150 projects were completed by about 750 volunteers, including about 100 students from Frederick County Public Schools, Shenandoah University and Lord Fairfax Community College.

Students were also recognized from the Sherando High School DECA club, who are working on a project with United Way called “Erase the Stigma” to raise awareness of mental health issues and the challenges of mental illness.

Rachel Martin, an administrative assistant for the United Way who came on board this fall, said she was pleased to see how supportive everyone is to reaching the campaign goal.

“So many people are coming together for the community,” she said. “It takes a town.”

The next public report meeting is scheduled for 8 a.m. Dec. 5 at 329 N. Cameron St., Winchester.

For more information, or to find out how to help, contact the United Way office at 540-536-1610 or visit their website at http://www.unitedwaynsv.org

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com