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United Way of Beaver County celebrates 60 years at fundraising kickoff

This story was written by Chrissy Suttles of the Beaver County Times

HOPEWELL TWP. — Beaver County native Mike Bender considers himself a better husband and father thanks to United Way contributions.

At one time, he and his new wife sought help from Family Services of Beaver County after a traumatic divorce that left his family reeling.

“It was a rough year or two for myself,” he said. “It was my lovely wife’s idea to take parenting classes at Family Services, and it was far superior to the court-ordered classes I took. I learned a lot more because it was one-on-one and someone really listened.”

Family Services is one of many United Way of Beaver County partners. The New Brighton counseling center offers therapy to all ages on a sliding scale.

Barb Linko, the center’s executive director, said her focus is rebuilding families shaken by divorce, incarceration or neglect.

“We see a lot of children who are abused sexually, physically and emotionally,” she said.

Linko said new health department grant funding will help Family Services combat rising HIV and teen pregnancy rates. Anger-management classes are in high demand, too.

“We’re getting a lot of referrals from the (Shell Chemicals) cracker plant,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s the long hours or what.”

Linko, alongside 240 other Beaver County movers and shakers, celebrated the launch of United Way’s 60th fundraising campaign Thursday at the Fez banquet hall in Hopewell Township.

As one of the region’s most influential nonprofit organizations, United Way of Beaver County helps fund 17 member agencies and dozens of other local groups each year through sponsorships, events and donations.

From now through May 31, 2020, the agency hopes to raise at least $850,000. Last year’s goal was $800,000, but Executive Director Mike Rubino said United Way ultimately raised $922,000.

“As a result of that additional funding, we were able to increase our allocations to partner agencies, and we will offer more grants to all nonprofits in Beaver County,” he said.

Those grants may be as high at $5,000 and could continue as donations and sponsorships increase.

“As Beaver County continues to grow both economically and, hopefully, in population, our need to service and provide for other nonprofits becomes more important,” he said.

Rubino is also prepared for potential economic fallout as FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. moves to close two power plants and Norfolk Southern Railway cuts regional workers. Both companies are big United Way contributors, he said.

The 2019-20 campaign will feature a number of benefit events, including a Sept. 26 showing of Red Herring performed by the Bobcat Players at the Ed Schaughency Theater, Zombies of the Corn at Three Rivers Paintball on Sept. 28 and dinner at Grand Valley Inn in New Brighton on Sept. 29.

On Sept. 11, more than 180 volunteers will participate in community-service projects during United Way’s annual Day of Caring.

Brian Yaworsky, Housing Authority of Beaver County executive director, said United Way is an integral part of western Pennsylvania; in the past four decades, it has raised more than $40 million for local charities.

“Our county has gone through tremendous upheaval from the decimation of the steel industry in the ’80s, but we survived and now we’re coming back,” he said. “Why? Because of you.”

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