(EDITOR'S NOTE: This series shares the real-life stories of people who benefit from the services provided by the Lycoming County United Way Program Partners and the individuals who make it possible).
Special to the Sun-Gazette
"The Lycoming County United Way staff provides the administrative support to our volunteer Board of Directors and Campaign Cabinet. Today's Face Story provides an inside perspective as to the importance of the job they perform serving the community. As United Way staff, we welcome the opportunity to serve in this role and would be happy to answer any questions the public may have regarding Lycoming County United Way,"
Scott N. Lowery, executive director.
Deb Machamer, office manager, has been with LCUW since October 2002. Deb manages, prioritizes and supervises office work flow and equipment upgrades. She also manages the campaign database and prepares and disseminates campaign materials, in addition to overseeing the Lycoming County State Employee Combined Appeal.
Carolyn Hawk, director of funding and community relations, began her employment with Lycoming County United Way in July 2013. Her roles include overseeing the annual funds distribution process, operating other grant opportunities and working with various human service groups to ensure the United Way is helping to meet the needs of the community.
Sue Gilliland, finance manager, has been with LCUW for six years. Sue performs all related financial services for the organization and general support for office activities and the professional staff.
Krista Storm, administrative assistant, started at Lycoming County United Way in May 2013. Krista manages the agency's Web page, assists with the upkeep of the Facebook page, provides support to all staff members, and inputs data for the county's PA 2-1-1 system.
Adrienne Wertz, director of resource development and communications, started with United Way in February 2012. Her jobs include fundraising strategy, volunteer direction, special event planning, media relations and marketing.
1. What did you think United Way did before coming to work here?
Storm: I was under the impression that they collected funds from the community and gave it to organizations that they felt were the most beneficial to the community.
Hawk: Raise money for local human service programs.
Wertz: It was my understanding that United Way helps non-profit organizations seek funding to run programs.
2. How has that perception changed in your time here?
Storm: I had no idea the extent to which community members make the decision about where the funds are directed. I had no idea the amount of thought, concern and deliberation that went into the dispersal of funds. The community not only receives the benefits of the funds, but the community itself decides what needs the funding.
Wertz: It has been interesting to sit on the other side of the fence. I worked with United Way on the volunteer side of things before my employment and now working right in the heat of the campaign has shown me that, even though we aren't having direct contact with the recipients of the LCUW-funded programs offered in Lycoming County, we have a direct connection with the individuals. They are reliant on the programs that we thoroughly research and find to have a positive impact on the community.
3. What is the most important thing you've learned about UW?
Storm: The programs that UW supports are so vital to the well-being of so many people in the Williamsport area. I was shocked at the number of people the UW assists each year and that the desire to do more and help more people is so great.
Hawk: The Lycoming County United Way is made up of a diverse group of volunteers who are extremely passionate about the United Way's mis-
Wertz: Lycoming County United Way is comprehensive. Who we fund from year to year relies heavily on the greatest needs of county residents.
4. What do you think is the No. 1 misconception of the community regarding United Way?
Storm: That the decision to fund certain programs and the amounts given are arbitrary. The decision-making process is huge for the use of funds, and the checks and balances to insure the system isn't abused at any level is impressive.
Hawk: That we give hand-outs.
Wertz: That our administrative costs are too high. Anyone who gives to a charity for the first time should research what sort of costs are associated with running the business and how much of their dollars are actually going toward the agency's mission.
5. How would you correct this?
Storm: I think inviting more of the public to be involved with the process is a plus. We have so many great volunteers and I think some of them would be interested to see what happens after the dollars come in. Our invaluable in-house managers also may be interested in knowing what happens after the campaign is over as well.
Hawk: Continue marketing and public relations to show the community the programs we fund are serving hard-working individuals and families. Most of the time, they are people who fall between the cracks when it comes to meeting eligibility guidelines for help.
Wertz: I invite anyone with questions to ask them! Give us a call or email us. Many who believe our administrative costs are too high would be pretty shocked to hear the actual numbers.
6. What was your involvement with United Way before?
Storm: Purely as a donor.
Hawk: I was a loaned executive, a panel member, a panel vice chair and a panel chair.
Wertz: I served as an in-house campaign manager for two years at the Williamsport Sun-Gazette. I really enjoyed rallying for the cause and supporting something that supports so many of my neighbors.
7. How have things changed for United Way in your time here?
Gilliland: I like that the public is finally learning more about the program partners that we serve with a positive spin.
Machamer: We've moved to a stricter outcome-based funding model, which has greatly increased our effectiveness and our ability to make a greater impact in helping those less fortunate here in Lycoming County. In addition, technological advances have enabled our organization to operate more effectively and efficiently.
8. What do you think is the best thing about Lycoming County United Way?
Gilliland: How a group of volunteers from all areas of Lycoming County come together in the spring to serve on a panel by listening to program partners and how they served our community. The more money we are able to raise, the more work our program partners can do.
Machamer: The end result of all the hard work by our small staff and the hundreds of dedicated and caring volunteers we couldn't do what we do without them. The camaraderie is infectious and makes us want to work that much harder to help our friends and neighbors in need.
9. What is it about your job that you think the public should know?
Gilliland: The public's trust and confidence in our ability to put their contributions to work in the community is held in the highest esteem. The more efficient we can be in everything we do benefits our program partner service providers and the public they serve.
Machamer: I think the public perceives United Way as a fundraiser who solicits from early September through the end of November. We are much more than that we work year-round, addressing critical human service needs throughout the county. The programs that our United Way funds are held to high standards and must achieve measurable results in addressing identified local community issues.
For more information, visit lcuw.org or call 570-323-9448.