With her grocery purchases being bagged at the Wegmans checkout by volunteers participating in an October United Way promotion a shopper asked, "I used to give at work through payroll deduction, but now that I'm retired no one has asked and I didn't know how to go about contributing."
Given the options available to her, a few weeks later the retiree stopped by the Lycoming County United Way office at 1225 Clayton Ave. with a gift to this year's campaign.
A short time ago, a letter to the editor in the Sun-Gazette asked the same question. "I contributed to United Way annually through the Williamsport Area School District. However, when the campaign began this fall I wondered where I could contribute since I am now retired and don't remember ever being asked to join the residential campaign. As United Way looks for more donors, they may want to check if retired teachers are being contacted because these donations are too important to miss. Our kids are counting on them."
Heavy lifting, building better lives, John Konkle Jr. and Joe Peck support the United Way campaign.
The issue is one very much on the minds of United Way officials.
"It is one of the biggest problems we face in preparing for the campaign each year," said LCUW Executive Director Scott Lowery. "Approximately 60 percent of what the campaign achieves comes from employee contributions at the work place. Workers in the 40-and-up age bracket are the most consistent contributors. When those workers reach retirement they are no longer participants in workplace campaigns and we lose contact with them.
"We have tried to encourage workplace campaigns to include retirees, but due to logistics and privacy issues these efforts have met with little success."
The organization of the United Way campaign structure contains residential sections in the larger Lycoming County communities. Volunteers conduct productive follow-up campaigns with those known residential donors but have few opportunities to reach recently retired contributors since the identity of specific retirees is not known.
Mary Engel, chairwoman of the Williamsport Residential Division, faces the dilemma annually.
"Over the years the residential division has responded quite well to the campaign. The harsh reality is we lose loyal contributors each year due to relocation and death. We have no way of knowing who retires each year, so we rely on them contacting us. We'd love to work with employers to identify retirees but I understand why that is difficult to do. We'd welcome anyone wishing to contribute to call the United Way office. We'd be glad to help them out."
In addition to the Williamsport Residential Division, residential volunteer contacts throughout the county include Chris Lechien, East Lycoming; Kathy DeLaney, Jersey Shore; Beverly Rupert, Montgomery; Joe Peck, Montoursville; Dawn Myers, Muncy; and Tara Goodbroad, South Williamsport. Individual contact information can be obtained by calling the United Way office at 323-9448.
Peck, himself a retiree after a long career in the insurance industry, enjoys the opportunity to engage others in the vital campaign process each fall.
"In the many years I've been volunteering for United Way I've realized there are striking similarities between the service I provided selling insurance and the important service United Way is providing to the Lycoming County community. In both circumstances we are helping local residents with protection in times of personal need. With out United Way many of the human service organizations some folks take for granted wouldn't be able to survive," Peck said.
"Here in Montoursville, we have a long-standing track record of pitching in to help out when adversity strikes. That's what I like about United Way. It is people working together to help others. I think some folks would be surprised to learn that during the past year services receiving United Way financial help were used more than 2,800 times in Montoursville alone. Count wide almost 90,000 services were provided. For retirees like me a small amount of my time and resources can produce positive dividends when combined with others.
"I'm not shy about asking for others to support the United Way campaign. It is important for both retirees, who had supported the campaign while they were working, and those folks who have never contributed to get involved. United Way in Lycoming County is well run and accountable. For the work it does to help so many people, it deserves everyone's help," Peck added.
For information on how you can support this year's United Way campaign call 323-9448 or visit www.lcuw.org