At this time of the year the words "Live United" have become a household phrase.
With workplace and residential campaigns now entering their second month, the need to stress the importance of giving is at a high. Those who have been considering a one-time or payroll pledge recognize how great the needs in our community truly are and how wide Lycoming County United Way dollars can reach.
With 97 percent of the money raised staying here in Lycoming County, your donation could make a difference in the lives of those people in crisis, the community's seniors and children, and our families and special needs individuals.
Those who donate and those who volunteer are greatly appreciated. Without the support of community members, LCUW would not be able to continue providing funding for the programs that last year helped more than 46,379 people in the county.
But there is yet a hidden group of individuals who also need to be recognized. Standing behind the employees who choose to give and the volunteers who take time from their work responsibilities to run a lively and effective campaign are the corporations who support Lycoming County United Way.
"Contributions emanating at the workplace, both employee and corporate, are vitally important to the success of our campaign and the allocations we can provide to the human service programs we serve," said Scott N. Lowery, LCUW executive director. "Where there is strong corporate support, an attitude of community service and helping others usually exists. Just as leaders set an example for others to follow, corporate support for a cause is a reflection of the value a business places on that particular cause. We are very fortunate to have had solid corporate/business support to our important mission to help the people of Lycoming County."
Four years ago, LCUW began to recognize those corporations for their support by listing them in the Forest of Philanthropy. The honor serves to link the past tradition of the community's lumber-driven birth with the sustaining nurturing of today's business support.
The campaign at Kellogg Co., in Muncy, is one of those sturdy members of the Forest of Philanthropy. The business recently reported that its total contribution to LCUW for its 2012-13 campaign rings in at $180,500.
"We are absolutely thrilled to have $85,718 contributed by our team members this year," reported Kellogg plant Manager Tim Bair. "We had 75 percent of our employees participate in the United Way campaign and we couldn't be more proud of their compassion for our community. We also did some special fundraisers and our corporate office matches the employee (by giving the) United Way a total of $180,500."
Kellogg Co. stands strong at the Oak Level ($30,000 or more) in the Forest of Philanthropy.
Among other companies who provide matching gifts include Auto-Trakk LLC, Frito-Lay Inc., the Tech Group and West Co. of Jersey Shore.
Auto Trakk LLC has garnered support at its business from the top level down, according to Mike Caffrey, president, and Jackie Travelpiece, human resource manager.
"The owners of the business have a strong legacy of giving, not just to United Way, but of giving in general, and that's a sentiment that runs throughout the organization," Caffrey said. "Managers are very tuned in to United Way. They view the United Way as a very efficient means of getting contributions and funding to good, worthy agencies and agencies that help people to help themselves. From the top down, we just believe in what United Way does and we want to continue to support it."
According to Travelpiece, it is important that enthusiasm trickles down from the upper management.
"It starts with the folks at the top of the company," she said. "For the staff to see them get enthused and committed to the community really provides enthusiasm across the board. As an in-house campaign manager, if you have folks supporting you, you're able to really get the rest of the employee force excited."
Although some of the fundraisers Auto Trakk employs throughout the campaign are tried and true, the desire to encourage giving drives the volunteers to keep things fun. The business recently held a flag football game on the front lawn of its Montoursville location to raise funds for its campaign. The turnout was great and, according to Travelpiece, "we can honestly say we put blood, sweat and tears into the campaign."
An additional on-sight snack bar also has helped raise some extra dollars for the Auto Trakk campaign, as well as a fundraiser that allows employees to wear jeans or sneakers for a week and a mock presidential election that could boot Caffrey from his office for a day.
And when the campaign is coming to a close, Caffrey still is not done.
"What we do to keep going is send out a global email to let people know that we should keep trying to give," he said. "I try to get people riled up by saying that I'm going to give just this much more and they should, too. It is an effective way to stir people up and raising that bar as the campaign winds down."
Auto Trakk is recognized as a Maple-level giver ($10,000 to $14,999) in the Forest of Philanthropy.
Other members of the Forest of Philanthropy include PPL Corp. (Walnut: $20,000 to $29,999); Highmark, West Pharmaceutical Jersey Shore, M & T Bank, and Springs Window Fashions (Cherry: $15,000 to $19,999); Jersey Shore State Bank, Blue Cross of Northeastern PA, Alcan Cable, Williamsport Sun-Gazette (Maple: $10,000 to $14,999); Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Susquehanna Bank PA, L-3 Communications Electron Devices, The Tech Group Williamsport, Larson Design Group, UGI Penn Natural Gas Inc., Chief Oil & Gas, Lonza Inc., Frito-Lay Inc., Newalta Corp., Staiman Recycling Corp., and Trojan Tube Sales & Fabrications (Hemlock: $5,000 to $9,999).
Many businesses even go beyond a matching gift to ensure that their campaign is a success. Corporations such as Jersey Shore State Bank, M & T Bank, PPL Corp. and Springs Window Fashions provide a contribution to their workplace campaign that exceeds the employee contributions.
M & T Bank has been a long supporter of the Lycoming County United Way campaign. Its efforts have remained strong throughout name changes and a decline in its number of employees. Yet the bank's corporate level support has not faltered.
"I think at one point in time when we had more employees, the contribution levels between employees and corporate was probably closer to equal, but as the employee rate has diminished we have decided to continue to support United Way because of all the important things they do for the community," said Philip Johnson, regional president of M& T Bank. "United Way takes the broadest look at the community and addresses those needs. I think it's important to support those efforts."
M & T Bank encourages its employees to continue giving by offering a pizza party to those departments or offices who give at 100 percent. The bank also provides giveaways at the end of the campaign to help sustain employee participation.
Oak, Walnut, Cherry, Maple and Hemlock - LCUW relies on the strength of this "forest" to help sustain the effort to meet the needs of the community.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. It is clear that it also takes a sturdy branch to keep reaching those in need.