United Fund kicks off its Torchlight Campaign

High hopes for reaching a high goal were in the air Thursday morning at the Conewango Club.

The United Fund of Warren County held its annual Torchlight Campaign kick-off breakfast, presenting a fundraising goal of $650,000 for this year.

New United Fund Director Jim Goodling opened the event.

Goodling thanked breakfast sponsors the Community Foundation of Warren County and the First Energy Foundation before reflecting on his experiences as an on-again, off-again local resident and his feelings about taking over for former United Fund Director Mike Hostovich.

He then pointed out something he said strikes him about Warren County.

“Warmth and sincerity are the hallmarks of Warren,” Goodling said, “which allows this community to look around and look ahead and make sure all of its members are cared for.”

He also noted the United Fund’s campaign goal is higher than in previous years, saying it is, “a bit more than before, but our agencies need the support.”

Major Ron Starnes of the Salvation Army, and this year’s campaign co-chair, gave an invocation before breakfast was served.

United Fund Board President Lincoln Sokolski spoke. He pointed out the United Fund board of directors and Starnes and Co-Chair Barbara Tubbs for recognition. Sokolski commended the latter pair for stepping forward to take leadership of the campaign following a two-year run with Co-Chairs Gary Lester and Sonia Probst.

“We want your support,” Sokolski said of aiding the campaign leaders. “They can’t do it alone.”

Tubbs and Starnes then came forward to talk about this year’s campaign.

“We are honored to share this year’s campaign,” Tubbs said, before noting 100 percent of donations go directly to beneficiary agencies. “I think that’s a fact of which we can all be proud.”

She touted the benefits of holding a single fundraising campaign for the 20 agencies the campaign benefits, including avoiding agencies competing against each other for fundraising dollars.

Tubbs also expressed appreciation for the community.

“I’m always overwhelmed by the generosity of this community,” she said. “It’s both the spirit of this community and the generosity, I think, that makes this community tick.”

Starnes also spoke, noting his unique perspective coming from a beneficiary agency.

“I’m a part of one of those agencies that benefit,” he said. “It’s great to come to a community where you don’t have to fight about dollars.”

Starnes also outlined what he described as the three “P”s for the campaign: “People – It’s your neighbors”, “Partner – We’re all working together to help this community” and “Priority – I hope for the next eight to ten weeks that this will be a priority for you”.

Goodling then returned to the podium.

“They’re not the only volunteers,” he said of Tubbs and Starnes, before listing nearly a dozen others who are working with the campaign. “I think it’s well known that the campaign is largely volunteer run.”

He noted the campaign has already begun receiving donations.

“I’m pleased to tell you contributions already exceed $27,000,” Goodling said.

He also spoke on the campaign’s impact on the beneficiary organizations.

“United Fund does not provide all of the support for any of these organizations,” Goodling noted, “but we do provide support for services they might not otherwise be able to afford. I’m proud to support these 20 agencies.”

Andrew King then gave a presentation of the United Fund’s new website, unitedfundofwarrencounty.org, which provides information on the organization, usage of funds, contributors and ways to donate including an online option through a Paypal secured system. He said the site was optimized for easy navigation on computers, tablets and phones. King and his father, Mark, worked to put up the website over the past week.

The organization has also launched a new Facebook page.

Agents that are beneficiaries of the campaign include The Salvation Army, Caring for Life, Sheffield Area Hospitality Center, Bollinger Enterprises, Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania, A Safe Place, the American Red Cross, Warren County 4-H, New Hope Assistance Dogs, the YMCA, RSVP, the Jefferson DeFrees Family Center, the Allegheny Community Center, Boy Scouts of America, the Don Mills Achievement Center, the Ruth M. Smith Center, Family Services of Warren County, Crescent Park Dental Clinic, the USO and Hospice of Warren County.