Three years ago she was among a group of 15 people 'loaned' to Lycoming County United Way by their employers to assist with the organization's annual campaign effort. The knowledge gained through the experience piqued her interest and deepened her United Way involvement.
"I was aware of the good work United Way does, but actually helping with the efforts to raise the needed funds was an eye-opener for me," said Barbara Hemmendinger, associate director-behavioral science coordinator at The Williamsport Hospital Family Residency Program. "Getting to see the generosity of the contributors' first-hand and the diligence taken by United Way to administer those funds led me to take the next step in the process."
For Hemmendinger and a host of others, the next step was involvement in LCUW's carefully structured allocation process that leads to the distribution of campaign proceeds to a network of Lycoming County human service providers. The process reached its completion in May, allocating $921,815 to 40 human service programs in the county.
The process was another learning experience for Hemmendinger.
In February, LCUW began to assemble volunteers for participation in the process. The group included individuals who participated the previous year augmented by new volunteers who had expressed an interest. The participants were from all walks of life - professionals, industrial laborers, educators, retirees and stay-at-home parents.
In mid-April, about 60 local community volunteers attended a two-hour orientation and training session. Each volunteer received a binder with thorough descriptions and outcomes of the programs to be reviewed and numerous support pieces such as marketing brochures and financial statements.
The volunteers were divided among five "community needs" panels - nurturing our children, serving those with special needs, caring for people in crisis, supporting our seniors and strengthening our families. Each panel is led by a chairperson and vice-chairperson comprising the steering committee. Meetings then were held with representatives of each human service program. Each program was evaluated by the assigned panel for its outcomes, efficiency of operation, financial accountability and impact within the community.
"This was my third year as a participant in the allocation process. My involvement comes from a desire to be a good steward of funds contributed by the residents of our community who expect that their hard-earned monies will be used wisely," Hemmendinger said. "As a clinical social worker, I have worked in the human services for my entire professional career and believe that I am knowledgeable, not only about existing programs, but also about the needs of the people in our region."
Hemmendinger served on the "supporting our seniors" panel that met with representatives from the Office of Aging regarding Meals on Wheels and the YMCA regarding the senior program, over the course of an afternoon.
Born in New York City, Hemmendinger lives in Williamsport and has worked at The Williamsport Hospital Family Medicine Residency Program for many years.
"Before that, I was very involved in a Philadelphia-area organization, now the Bread and Roses Community Fund, which raised monies to be distributed to community groups with innovative programs," she said. In her spare time, Hemmendinger enjoys spending time with her family, volunteering for the American Cancer Society and singing with the Williamsport Civic Chorus.
"As part of the allocations procedure, I enjoy reviewing the descriptions of programs' effectiveness submitted by agency directors and meeting with those officials to understand their United Way supported program(s) in greater depth," Hemmendinger added.
"Each year, contributors to the LCUW campaign entrust us with their dollars to distribute them in a manner that will do the most good within Lycoming County," said Tom O'Connell, volunteer chairman of the LCUW funds distribution committee. "Once again, the volunteers charged with this difficult task of allocating limited resources did a tremendous job.
"Even though we had $1,661 more to distribute than we did last year, the requests for funding we received totaled $82,302 more than we had to give. The various programs we fund are all providing valuable services to the residents of Lycoming County, but it is impossible to meet 100 percent of each request," explained O'Connell.
"I continue to be impressed with the volunteers' thoroughness and thoughtfulness when evaluating the programs. Barbara and the other volunteers understand they represent the thousands of individuals who generously donate to United Way and they take the responsibility seriously to effectively put those dollars into positive action," he added.
"The volunteer panel review of our program partners is vital to the United Way concept," said Rosann Pelleschi, director of funds distribution and community building for LCUW.
"It ensures accountability among the programs we help fund, transparency in the funding process, and the careful stewardship of donors' investments in United Way. It is an important responsibility that is taken very seriously by all involved. We are most appreciative of the time and thoughtfulness the volunteers give to this process."
For more information visit www.lcuw.org or call 323-9448.