United Way awards couple

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Dr. John and Margaret Piper were the recipients of the Douglas C. Dickey Humanitarian Award during the Lycoming County United Way Annual Meeting at the Holiday Inn Tuesday.

A crowd of 160 people, volunteers, partners and recipients of services of the Lycoming United Way gathered Tuesday night for their annual meeting to honor Dr. John Jr. and Margaret Piper with the group’s highest award, the 2017 Douglas C. Dickey Award.

The award is presented each year to individuals for their dedication, commitment and outstanding leadership in contributing to the welfare of Lycoming County.

Presenting the award to the Pipers was last year’s recipient, Jeannette Carter. Carter noted that while working with the couple on their campaign committee, she learned they are both wonderful leaders.

“In that role, at some point I saw Margaret step forward and be the leader and at other times I saw John step forward and be the leader,” Carter said. “In both of them at times, I saw each emulate or be the true person that promotes human welfare and social reform.”

“When they were out on the campaign trail, trying to raise money, you could see their hearts being poured into how they felt about the recipients of the services of the United Way. How they really believed in it and that it wasn’t just kind of ‘well somebody asked me to do this,’ but it was really from their heart,” Carter said.

Both Pipers have been involved with the United Way since the 1970s, having served on various committees and as co-chairs of the 2016 Campaign.

The Douglas J. Shangraw Memorial Volunteer Award, the highest campaign volunteer award, was also presented at the event. Mary Engel, Williamsport Residential Division Chair received the award, which honors Shangraw. Shangraw dedicated many years of his life to the campaign.

Prior to the presentation of awards, Julie Calabro-Taylor, shared the story of her journey from being an alcoholic and drug addict and the role the United Way agencies played in helping her move from that life.

“I have a little bit of a colored past,” she said. “I’m a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. I got addicted to pain medicine after a surgery and having it be many, many years a very big battle.”

Calabro-Taylor spent time in prison. At that point she was homeless and penniless. She had lost her children to the system and her family wanted nothing to do with her. She said she felt that prison would be her home. After a few weeks in prison, she said she realized she would have to do something on her own to move forward.

“I wanted to be better. I wanted to get better, but at that point I had no idea how to do it,” she said.

She shared the role that United Way played in helping her improve her life and the time she spent at the YWCA’s Liberty House.

“It wasn’t just a place to stay. It offered help with getting a job, making a resume. You learn to deal with conflicts and issues in a healthy manner. This was stuff that was all new to me because for so long all that really mattered to me was where to get the next fix or the next drink. I was really learning to live life from the beginning.”

Calabro-Taylor detailed the services that helped her along the way. Today, she is living in the Journey House, a ministry of New Covenant United Church of Christ, with her daughter and is a certified recovery specialist.

“Today I’m excited to wake up each day. Without these services I don’t know where I’d be, but I’m very glad that they’re here for us,” she said.

Commenting on her presentation, Dr. Kent Trachte, vice chair said, “You’ve just demonstrated why this organization exists. It exists because we believe in the resiliency of the human spirit, we believe in the capacity of human beings who have been challenged in their lives, have had misfortune befall them and we believe in the capacity of human beings, with some help, with some support to lift themselves up and make a better life.”

During the meeting, Mary Jo and Maurice Bower were introduced as the 2018 Campaign Chairs.