HOPEWELL TWP. – Over the eight years that Mike Rubino has been the executive director of the United Way of Beaver County, he has told many stories, and jokes, in order to encourage people to donate to the agency’s yearly campaign.
One of those stories/jokes is the “Buster” story.
The story goes that a man has his car stuck in a ditch when a man in a single horse-drawn buggy comes to help him out.
The man in the buggy sets up his horse to pull it out. The horse is named Buster.
When he starts, the man yells, “Come on, Coco.” Nothing happens. He then yells, “Come on, Elmore.” Nothing happens. Finally, he yells, “Come on, Buster,” and the car gets out of the ditch.
The man with the car, thankful for the help, asks why he said Coco and Elmore first, to which the man with the buggy says Buster is blind and he doesn’t want to seem he is doing all of the work.
It is that mentality, and that passion to help others, that Rubino feels not only drives the staff and volunteers at the United Way but everybody in Beaver County.
He said that has translated to a campaign of over $1 million for the first time in 18 years.
During the seventh annual United Way of Beaver County recognition reception last Thursday, Rubino revealed the total amount raised for the 2021-22 campaign − $1,116,156.
Rubino, who became the executive director in 2014, and is set to retire later this summer, said he did not want to leave the agency without accomplishing a $1 million campaign.
How the goal was accomplished
Rubino said he wanted to thank every single individual, organization, business and labor union that contributed to the campaign.
He said going into this campaign, their second “COVID campaign,” it was going to be crazy, and said there were more ups and downs in the process than “a Catholic at Mass.”
During the previous 2020-21 campaign, the United Way raised $970,853, of which $200,000 was comprised of one-time COVID-relief funding.
This led Rubino to wonder how the United Way was going to make up for that $200,000.
A long-time anonymous donor told Rubino he would give an extra $50,000 if Rubino could find extra or new donors before the campaign’s official start in September 2021.
It was during those months, as well as through the rest of the campaign, when Rubino and volunteers/staff worked to tell the stories of the ways the United Way’s campaign helps the people in Beaver County.
He said this strategy worked, as not only was the United Way able to make up the lost $200,000, but they were able to receive more donations than they had received in years.
“We will continue to tell their stories,” Rubino said.
Rubino said it didn’t matter how big or small, as the community came together for this great cause.
He said there is an elderly woman in Aliquippa who, every year, personally mails over a $5 bill for the campaign. For this campaign, she donated $10.
Rubino said the people who donate, and the people who work in the different agencies and charities in the county, are real-life superheroes, and he is fortunate to tell their stories like the late, great Stan Lee.
“I think the United Way has been blessed by its volunteers,” said Toni Sadecky, United Way of Beaver County board president. “We appreciate all of the volunteers…a lot of hours and a lot of dedication.”
Carol Ruckert Fiorucci Award
A total of six recognition awards were given during the presentation at the Club at Shadow Lakes.
The first award was the Carol Ruckert Fiorucci Award, named after the late former Beaver County register of wills, who worked in different charities over the years, including the United Way, who organized campaigns in the Beaver County Courthouse and sat on the board of directors.
The winner of the award was Julie Klein, the human resources director of the Eaton Corp. Eaton Electrical High Power Laboratory in Vanport Township.
From the past: Hopewell pupils collaborate with Eaton engineers
She runs annual campaigns amongst Eaton employees for the United Way, and is also on the United Way board, with Rubino stating she exemplifies many of the same traits as Fiorucci.
“I can’t thank Julie enough for all that she has done,” Rubino said.
Klein said she knew Fiorucci, and said it is an honor and a privilege to be able to walk in her shoes.
She wanted to thank all of her work colleagues, her fellow board members, her family, and the rest of the United Way of Beaver County staff and board.
Campaign of the Year Award
The next award was presented to Campaign of the Year, which was given to Styropek from Potter Township.
Rubino said Styropek bought the former Nova Chemicals in 2020. Nova Chemicals ran annual campaigns for the United Way, going so far as to match, dollar for dollar, what its individual employees raised.
He said when Styropek bought Nova, he thought the United Way would lose a valuable partner.
However, to his surprise, last September, Styropek announced they would contribute to the campaign, host a golf outing, and even match the employees’ donations dollar for dollar.
But on the date of the planned golf outing last October, tornadoes came through the county, including the exact golf course they would play at.
However, none of the golfers who were going to attend asked for their money back.
In total, the company raised $73,000 for the United Way.
Stephanie Wilfong, the HR director for the company, accepted the award.
She said the company is honored for the award, and said they will continue to donate to the United Way, and continue the values that were left by Nova Chemicals.
“We look forward to another successful campaign, not just this year, but in the years to come,” Wilfong said.
She also wanted to thank Rubino for being a continued supporter of the company.
The next award that was presented was the Labor Award, which was given to the Edwin D. Hill Charitable Trust.
Rubino said the different labor unions have continued to support the United Way internationally, for many years, with more and more union workers choosing to give payroll deductions to the United Way every year.
Edwin D. Hill Sr. served as the 17th international president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) from 2001-15.
Rubino said Hill was known worldwide, so when he retired and decided to come back to his native Beaver County, he was surprised when Hill agreed to sit on the United Way of Beaver County board.
He said he remembers asking Hill to join the board while Hill was giving him a check in Hill’s private office, which was surrounded by the different world leaders Hill had met.
Hill died on Dec. 1, 2018, at the age of 81.
From the past: Looking back on Hill’s life and career
Rubino said his legacy and generosity continue to live on through the Edwin D. Hill Charitable Trust, which is led by his son, Edwin D. Hill Jr., who took his father’s seat on the board.
Speaking through tears, accepting the award, Hill said: “My dad…he thought about this county. Of all the travels he had…he wanted to help (here).”
He said his dad helped start the organization Electrical Workers Without Borders, which provides electrical services to people all over the world.
Hill also wanted to thank all workers from all other labor unions, as well as thank Rubino for all the effort he has put in during his tenure.
“Labor…it’s made up of people that care,” Hill said.
“New” Partner Award
Rubino then presented the New Partner Award, although he put “New Partner” in air quotes, because the winner, Gateway Rehab, is a returning partner.
Gateway, which was established in 1972, used to work as a partner for the United Way for many years.
However, there was a period of time, under different leadership, where Gateway no longer contributed.
It wasn’t until the most recent leadership change, under current President and CEO James Troup, where Gateway rejoined the United Way as a partner.
“We couldn’t be more grateful,” Rubino said.
Rubino said Gateway, which sees 1,700 people a day in its 20+ locations, has a long tradition of helping people in Beaver County, and has continued that push by moving its corporate headquarters from Moon Township to Center Township.
“We are thankful to be back in Beaver County,” Troup said, who accepted the award.
Troup said a month after he became the leader of Gateway, he met with Rubino for a meeting.
He said 30 seconds into the meeting, he agreed to bring Gateway back as a partner, which he said was one of the easiest decisions he has made, as the employees there wanted to contribute.
Troup used his speech to discuss the ongoing opioid epidemic in the country, as he said there were over 100,000 overdose deaths in the country in 2021, including 60 in Beaver County.
He said it is the goal of Gateway to get that number to zero, and will do so by adding a new adolescent program, expanding the female treatment program, and expanding the mental health program in Beaver County.
“We’re trying to be a resource in every community,” Troup said.
Community Leader Award
The next award was the Community Leader Award, which was presented to Paul “Rat” Radatovich, the current chief sheriff deputy for Beaver County.
Rubino said Radatovich was a Pennsylvania State Police trooper for 28 years, before eventually becoming chief sheriff deputy.
He said Radatovich has spent many years volunteering for charity, with his trademark event, his annual golf outing, raising more than $500,000 for the Beaver County Cancer & Heart Association (BCCHA), including $56,000 this year, its 25th and final year.
BCCHA Executive Director Jackie Finney said she has worked with Radatovich for over 20 years, and said he is a great human being, with many adjectives that could describe him.
These include dedicated, kind, generous, outgoing, comedic, survivor, and most importantly, humble.
“The world humble describes you perfectly,” Finney said. “I will miss our ‘Rat Time’ together.”
Radatovich wanted to congratulate all of the award winners and said he feels he is not worthy of this attention.
He said there is an analogy in football, where a quarterback is given too much credit for a win and is given too much blame for a loss.
He said he feels like the quarterback in this situation, stating he wanted to thank his family, all the volunteers, and all the sponsors and media over the years for their contributions to the outings.
“Whatever you give to others, you give back tenfold,” Radatovich said.
Radatovich wanted to thank all of the mentors he has had in his life, stating every town and generation has a special person.
“Beaver County is rich with benevolent and kind people,” he said.
The last award of the evening was the Spotlight Award, which Rubino said is meant to give more recognition, or “kudos” to a local charity.
He said the United Way, across the country, has created a special 211 hotline, which is monitored 24/7, and allows individuals in need to find the resources they need, whether it’s shelter, utilities, treatment, and more.
Rubino said the hotline is used to direct people to resources or outside organizations, with each United Way branch getting a report of who is being referred to the most every month.
He said, month after month, the organization that has been referred to the most in Beaver County is The Cornerstone of Beaver County, which he said acts as the “point of entry,” for any individual with shelter or housing concerns in the county.
Rubino said he had been with the Cornerstone during its transition to a full 501(c)(3) in 2016, and said they should be commended for all of the work they have done over the years, including their work on creating a 24/7 men’s shelter in Vanport Township.
Executive Director Marie Timpano, has been the executive director there since 2017, accepted the award.
She said she also feels like the quarterback for the Cornerstone as well, stating she wanted to thank all Cornerstone workers, past and present, for their efforts.
Timpano said it is the goal of the Cornerstone to eliminate homelessness in the county.
She discussed all of the struggles that Cornerstone went through trying to find housing for people during the pandemic, stating there is still not a lot of affordable housing in the county.
That is why she is excited about the opening of the men’s shelter, which she said will take place in November, with the shelter to offer housing, services, and programming for the homeless.
“Together, we will make Beaver County a place for everyone,” Timpano said. “A home isn’t a luxury, it’s a right. Beaver County is a home for all.”
Rubino surprised Timpano by presenting a donation of $10,000, from the United Way, to go toward the shelter.
A strong, independent United Way
Rubino said the United Way, across the world, continues to help people who are defined as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), which means people who are the “working poor,” or living paycheck to paycheck.
He said what happens when an emergency or unfortunate life situation occurs, and an individual or family needs services they can’t afford.
Rubino said statistically, 13% of people in the county live in poverty.
A few years ago, before the pandemic and the rising inflation costs, it was determined that a single person had to work 40 hours a week at $13.20 an hour to live the bare minimum lifestyle, with that number being $30.32 an hour for a family of four.
He said he has seen the people of the county continue to love and help each other over the years.
He added despite the recent trend of United Ways across the country merging and having less successful campaigns, the Beaver County United Way has seen growth and is in a position to be a strong and independent branch for years to come.
He said he wishes the next executive director the best of luck when they are hired.
Rubino thanked all of the sponsors for the United Way, for all of their annual events, including those who helped with the recognition reception.
He said thanks to the sponsors of the recognition reception, $28,000 was raised to contribute to the 2022-23 campaign.
He also wanted to thank “The Magnificent Seven, which included the past and current staff of the United Way of Beaver County.
These include the retired staff that had a combined 67 years of service – Stella Polletta, director of finance and allocations, and Lois Taddeo and Nancy Murphy, who were part-time administrative assistants.
They also included the current staff – Deborah Klein, director of finance and allocations, and Poppy Roras, Patti Lewis, and Yvonne Connor, part-time administrative assistants.
Rubino also wished Paulette Miller, the executive director of the Beaver County Rehabilitation Center (BCRC), well on her retirement after over 40 years of service.
A night belonging to Rubino
While there were many that were honored, it was clear that the star of the evening was Rubino, with every award winner thanking Rubino, and wishing him well in his retirement.
“There has never been a finer community servant in Beaver County than Mike Rubino,” said Beaver County Commissioner Jack Manning, who attended the event. “He’s one of the finest human beings I’ve ever known.”
Manning announced that back in May, the commissioners awarded $100,000 in the county’s allocation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to the United Way.
Rubino said the United Way of Beaver County promises to be good stewards of the money it receives, with $0.86 of every $1 it receives going back to charity, which he said is really high among other non-profits.
During Radatovich’s speech, he “yielded” the remainder of his time to have state Reps. Robert Matzie, D-16, Harmony Township, and Jim Marshall R-14, Big Beaver, present a state House citation to Rubino.
The citation was on behalf of Matzie, Marshall and state Rep. Joshua Kail, R-15, Beaver.
Matzie said the pandemic has shown both the need of the United Way, as well as the generosity of the people of the county, with Rubino being the figurehead of that passion.
Matzie said the two most important things in Rubino’s life are his family and his faith, which he said he “wears on his sleeve.”
Rubino attends Mary, Queen of Saints Roman Catholic Parish, which covers the areas of Monaca, Aliquippa, Center Township and Hopewell Township.
Timpano said Rubino has been a mentor to her ever since she joined the Cornerstone, and continues to help her, stating she is honored to be his friend.
A letter was read, which was written by former board President Marcia Ferrero, who wrote about the hard work, kindness and generosity that Rubino has, and is proud of all the work he has done during his tenure.
To end the evening, Rubino wanted to thank everybody for their continued support over the years, from his friends, colleagues, and especially his family, whether it be his siblings, his sons, Michael and Daniel, and his wife, Laura.
The board of directors at the United Way gave him a special award and congratulations as well.
He said people might wonder what is next for him.
Rubino said if anyone ever needs anything from him, to call him on his cell phone or email him.
He said no matter what, he will continue to do acts of kindness, and be a servant leader in the community, and encourages everyone to do the same.
“United we make a difference,” Rubino said.
This article was written by Nicholas Vercilla, a staff reporter for the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Used with permission.