United Way’s best

Continuing to support the community and its services, the Lycoming County United Way recognized the donors and volunteers that allowed it to make such an impact on the area Tuesday.

Virgil Probasco, campaign chairman the past two years, announced before handing the position over to Dr. William Martin that the 2012 campaign raised $1,612,125, which is a 4-percent increase from 2011.

“Without the donors, you people, there is no campaign. And with the campaign, there is no United Way,” Probasco told the audience.

Probasco said that there are many months of work done by those involved in the campaign. As Martin is set to take over as campaign chairman, Probasco said his time in the position has “been one heck of a ride.”

And while the night honored numerous businesses and organizations that have supported the United Way’s annual fundraising campaign, it also sought to honor one of its volunteers.

Thomas O’Connell received the 67th Douglas C. Dickey Humanitarian Award. The award is the highest volunteer honor given by the county United Way.

George Tsunis, last year’s award winner, said O’Connell, who currently is on the organization’s board of directors and serves as the chairman of funds distribution, has “the savvy of a banker and the heart of a humanitarian.”

“To say I’m overwhelmed is an understatement,” O’Connell said of the honor.

O’Connell thanked the United Way staff and volunteers, but also added that there were those who sacrificed much for him to be involved with the organization. He said his wife and two daughters allowed him to miss dinners and events to be at United Way meetings.

After the event, O’Connell said it was an honor to be recognized.

“I was surprised. I didn’t expect it,” O’Connell said. “But for me, the United Way is what’s working well in the community.”

The audience also had the opportunity to learn about one program that benefits from the annual campaign. Barbara McGary, executive director of the James V. Brown Library, spoke about the Learning Center, which helps adults improve literacy skills.

McGary asked the crowd to imagine waking up and not being able to read, write or do simple tasks, such as fill out a job application.

“You would be lost,” she said. “This is the reality of the people that pass through the doors of the Learning Center each week.”

But McGary reported thanks to funding from the United Way, tutors are able to “better their lives, not just their skills.” Those who go through the program are able to attain their GED diploma and attain employment.

The night concluded with Mary B. Wolf, president, reminding attendees that the community is connected by having everyone hold hands and say “live united.”