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Lycoming County United Way focuses on community, collaboration between organizations

The word “community” is peppered throughout any conversation with Ron Frick, president of the Lycoming County United Way.

“How do you help the community find family sustaining jobs so they don’t have to go to the American Rescue Workers for food? What is the biggest need in the community that’s not being met?” are just a few of the questions he posed recently.

“The United Way was built and is run community by community,” he said.

Serving the community has taken on a new look since COVID-19, which changed everything.

Throughout it all, the LCUW was able to raise just under $1 million this past fiscal year to support local program partners.

The last live event that the Lycoming County United Way held was a 5-K run in early 2020, just before the coronavirus prompted the governor to shut down gatherings in the state.

“From then, it was how do we pivot, how do we continue to help the community by working remotely,” said Ron Frick, president.

The organization was able to leverage payment protection loan programs and things like that so that the agency could stay at the same level through 2020 and into the beginning of 2021.

“We didn’t lay anybody off, we didn’t have any disruption in service,” Frick said.

“It was kind of like, how do we remain level in the community when the community is sort of all over the place?” he said.

Month by month, the Lycoming County United Way was active in the community and on social media navigating a landscape limited by COVID-19 mitigation protocols.

“We have been structured for so long. COVID has taught us all a lot of things. One of which is, you can’t be that rigid. You have to be flexible. That’s still a major issue — how do we take a different approach to help the same population?” Frick said.

Frick said he has seen a greater cooperation among social service agencies and his organization over the past year.

“From the community perspective, there’s been a lot more emphasis over the last 18 months on our mission, which is mobilizing community resources to improve lives,” he said.

“It’s been a lot more collaboration cooperation partnerships between agencies and us,” he stated.

Case in point — the LCUW usually sponsors a large-scale packing event where they pack backpacks to be distributed in the schools. This year they decided to scale it back to one day in June where volunteers worked at various agencies in the area.

Frick said that about eight or nine companies sent volunteers who worked four-hour shifts.

“Some went to Sojourner Truth Ministries and worked on projects there. Then they went to the YWCA and worked there,” he said.

“We were literally recruiting volunteers up until the day of the event,” he added.

He also sees a greater spirit of cooperation among community partners.

“We have three partners within two blocks of each other and they’re talking more now than ever. Why were they not doing more together? Well, now they are because we’re encouraging it,” Frick said.

Meanwhile, the agency is looking ahead for creative ways to raise funds to benefit the communities it serves.

In October 2019, the LCUW kicked off its annual campaign with “Live United Music,” featuring Michael Cavanaugh. Frick is planning a second event featuring Cavanaugh, although no date has been set.

“I’m holding my breath for a date, because, as you can imagine, with things opening up, Cavanaugh and the gang are booked solid,” he said, adding that a date will be announced as soon as it’s confirmed.

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