United Way of Wyoming Valley - working with the Northeastern Regional HIV Planning Coalition.



    United Way Surprises Sordoni Employee With Car

    A Sordoni Construction employee was surprised to learn Thursday he was the recipient of a new car – at least temporarily – after winning the United Way of Wyoming Valley’s annual campaign sweepstakes.

    Shortly before 1:30 p.m., James Farber, an employee of Sordoni stationed at the Susquehanna nuclear power plant, walked into an ambush of sorts, consisting of Sordoni, United Way and Motorworld employees at the construction company’s headquarters.

    “Surprise,” the attendees yelled.

    Farber, of Sweet Valley, was chosen at random from thousands of donors to win the grand prize: a two-year-lease for the Toyota of his choosing from MotorWorld.

    Read more at http://timesleader.com/top-stories/618107/618107


    United Way Expands REAL MEN READ Program into Wyoming Valley West School District

    The Wyoming Valley West School District and a local nonprofit have launched a new program to promote literacy. The United Way of Wyoming Valley started the "Real men Read" initiative in the Wilkes-Barre School District last year. Today it was introduced to the students at Schuyler Avenue elementary.

    The program connects volunteer mentors from the community with kindergarten classes in schools with high risk students.

    "Many children are interacting with women throughout the day. Some families are single parent homes and the moms are reading to children. So its really exciting when a man comes into the classroom and really shows that love of reading and learning, " said Jennifer Deemer, of the United Way of Wyoming Valley.

    Riggs Asset Management and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation provided the grants to make the program possible.

    Watch REAL MEN READ video report from WBRE/WYOU-TV now http://www.pahomepage.com/news/real-men-read

    Learn more about our REAL MEN READ program at http://unitedwaywb.org/real_men_read.html


    United Way Joins Campaign for Grade Level Reading

    United Way of Wyoming Valley has joined the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (GLR), a nationwide movement to increase early reading proficiency. United Way of Wyoming Valley was recognized by the Campaign for Grade Level Reading at its recent GradNation Community Summit. Reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a milestone toward high school graduation and success later life because it marks the transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

    National tests show that two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders (four-fifths of whom are from low-income families) are not reading proficiently.

    Read more at http://citizensvoice.com/arts-living/wyoming-valley-1.2119742



    Bill Jones: Join A Purely Positive Campaign - United Way's Effort to Strengthen Community

    Each day since the presidential election, there has been no shortage of banter about the campaign and the promises made. While most people have grown weary of the noise, at the United Way of Wyoming Valley, we are still campaigning!

    No, not for an elective office, thank goodness,but on behalf on our kids, families and community.

    Read more at http://timesleader.com/opinion/columns/608253/bill-jones-join-a-purely-positive-campaign-the-united-ways-effort-to-strengthen-community




    Local Leaders Aim to Improve Graduation Rate

    PLAINS TOWNSHIP The mission at Mohegan Sun Pocono Friday was to figure out ways to raise the high school graduation rate to *90 percent* by the year 2020.

    "In the Wyoming Valley, we are not far off. We are above the national average, at 88 percent, but we are still below the national target," said Bill Jones of the United Way of Wyoming Valley.

    According to the Nation Center for Education Statistics, the national high school graduation rate has reached an all time high of 83.2 percent. The organization "America's Promise Alliance" aims to continue closing the gap on the graduation goals and is partnering with the United Way of Wyoming Valley to do something to cut the numbers of those dropping out of school.

    Read more at http://www.pahomepage.com/news/local-leaders-aim-to-improve-graduation-rate


    More GradNation Summit Articles:


    United Way Helps Provide Free Dental Care for Pre-K Kids

    WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) -- There may be nothing more heartwarming than a child's smile. Helping kids flash a healthy smile is the goal of a program for pre-school children.

    United Way of Wyoming Valley partners with Volunteers In Medicine to head off more than just potential tooth trouble. "Children can't learn if they have a mouthful of cavities or other issues going on inside their mouth that are preventing them from being able to pay attention," said United Way of Wyoming Valley Vice President of Community Impact Jennifer Deemer.Re


    ad more at http://www.pahomepage.com/news/free-dental-care-for-pre-k-kids


    United Way Event Will Address High School Graduation, Truancy Rates

    WILKES-BARRE High school graduation rates are down and absenteeism is up, according to statistics released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and the United Way of Wyoming Valley wants to improve the situation.

    Bill Jones, president/CEO of United Way of Wyoming Valley, believes education is one of the most influential factors in determining a child’s success. This Friday, in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and several local organizations, the agency will convene a GradNation Community Summit to explore innovative approaches to support young people in and out of school.

    The GradNation event will be held from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Pocono in Plains Township.

    Read more at http://timesleader.com/news/local/600013/united-way-event-to-address-high-school-graduation-truancy-rates



    Sesame Street Icon Helps Launch United Way's 2016 Campaign

    A beloved star of the children’s television program “Sesame Street” helped the United Way of Wyoming Valley launch its 2016 campaign on Thursday.

    “I might have left the show but I continue to be intrigued by children,” said Sonia Manzano, who played Maria on the iconic PBS program for 44 years before retiring in 2015.

    Manzano delivered the keynote speech at the United Way campaign kickoff at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Thursday evening. She spoke of growing up poor in the South Bronx neighborhood of New York City in the 1950s and ’60s, and compared that to the plight of children today in the Wyoming Valley, where almost one-third of young children live below the poverty level, according to United Way officials.

    For the third straight year, the United Way will emphasize its Poverty to Possibility initiative during the agency’s fundraising campaign.

    Manzano presented herself as living proof that a child raised in poverty can get a good education and achieve financial and artistic success. She described a difficult childhood as the daughter of parents who moved from Puerto Rico to New York in search of a better life and struggled to provide for their children.

    More than 50 years later, those struggles are much the same for families today in Northeastern Pennsylvania and throughout the country, she said.

    Manzano found escape in entertainment — movies and television programs — and hope in education, which provided structure to her life, she said.

    Entertainment and education together guided Manzano to “Sesame Street” in 1971.

    She attended the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan, then earned a drama scholarship to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

    She landed the role of Maria on “Sesame Street” soon after she graduated and stayed with the show for more than four decades.

    She never grew bored.

    “Each generation gave us an opportunity to get it right,” she said. “It was like being on a reality show without the whining.”

    She also relished the chance to provide a role model for Latino children, since when she was a girl she “never saw a person of color on television,” she said.

    Manzano encouraged parents and guardians to allow children to explore their world rather than try to protect them from it.

    Let them push elevator buttons instead of telling them to keep their hands to themselves, she urged.

    Or take a child to the movies or the theater. Manzano mentioned a fourth-grade teacher who took her to the film “West Side Story,” which she recalled as a highlight of her childhood and a nudge on her path to an acting career.

    She also said she enjoys hearing adults say they learned Spanish from her character, Maria, by watching “Sesame Street” when they were young.

    Maria only taught a handful of Spanish words on the program, she said.

    “I did not teach them Spanish, I showed them Spanish,” she said. “I introduced the concept to them.”

    One of the great gifts adults can give to children is to “point them in a different direction and watch them fly,” she said.


    Eric Mark | The Citizens' Voice
    (570) 821-2117



    Imagination Library Marks Second Anniversary

    United Way of Wyoming Valley’s ‘Dolly Parton Imagination Library’ marked its second anniversary with a celebration Tuesday at the Osterhout Free Library in Wilkes-Barre. In two years, 2,052 children have been enrolled in the program and more than 300 children have graduated and headed to kindergarten with a love of reading. At Tuesday’s celebration, a story hour was led by United Way of Wyoming Valley’s 2016-17 campaign co-chairs Katie McCarthy Lambert and Greg Collins, followed by birthday cake and ice cream for participating children. Created in 1996 by Parton, the Imagination Library aims to ensure that every child has access to books in their homes, regardless of family income, with a specific goal to increase and encourage literacy among children. For information on how to register a child or to make a contribution, contact Miriam Bakewell at 570-829-6711, extension 1232 or visit http://www.unitedwaywb.org/dolly.html.

    Staff Reports | The Citizens' Voice



    Volunteers Prepare 50,000 Meals for Families in Need

    About 100 volunteers packed more than 50,000 meals for families in need in about two hours during a United Way of Wyoming Valley event on Thursday at the Salvation Army in Wilkes-Barre. The volunteers from all facets of the community put on hair nets and plastic gloves to pack oatmeal and macaroni and cheese to be distributed to families in need in the Wyoming Valley area through local schools and children’s programs. Nearly 30 percent of all children under age 18 in Luzerne County live below the poverty line and many get their primary meals through school and after school programs. Kim Albert, Amanda Arcelay, Candace James, Anita Rusinko and Amanda Modrovsky volunteer their time. For video of the event, visit citizensvoice.com.

    Staff Reports | The Citizens' Voice



    Christmas in July Drive for Feeding & Reading

    The results of our Christmas in July Drive for Feeding and Reading are in! United Way of Wyoming Valley's community partners collected over 10,000 lbs. of food and $27,712 in cash donations - which equals 11,085 books for children enrolled in our Dolly Parton Imagination Library! The Feeding Champion is Benco Dental with 1,568 lbs. of donated food, and our Reading Champion is Berkshire Hathaway GUARD Insurance Companies with $10,949.59 donated for the Imagination Library. Huge thanks to the tremendous effort by everyone involved in this year's drive!



    Summer Literacy Kit Winners

    Talk about adorable prize winners! 4-year-old Jayden Esser and 5-year-old Charlie Cuff dropped by United Way with their moms, to pick up the literacy kits they'd won because they're enrolled in our Imagination Library. Now they'll have plenty of reading, coloring, and learning fun through the summer! You can get info on how to enroll your child from birth to age 5 right here: http://www.unitedwaywb.org/dolly.html




    Success story kicks off United Way campaign


    PLAINS TWP. By age 15, Liz Murray was homeless, living on the streets and eating from dumpsters.

    Her parents were cocaine and heroin addicts in the Bronx, New York. There rarely was food in her house and Murray said many nights, she and her sister Lisa didn’t know what to eat.“I had lice in my hair and holes in my clothes, said Murray, the keynote speaker at the United Way’s campaign kickoff Wednesday at Mohegan Sun Pocono, attended by more than 650 people.

    Her parents immediately spent their welfare checks and drugs were everywhere. Her mother and father both died of AIDS. Despite her plight, she finished high school in just two years while camping out in New York City parks and subway stations. She later enrolled in Harvard University after she was awarded a New York Times scholarship for needy students. She graduated from Harvard in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

    Today, the 34-year-old New York City resident is a graduate student and a married mother of two children. Murray, author of the New York Times best-selling book “Breaking Night, talked about growing up as a child in poverty. She gave a lot of credit to her dedicated mentor and high school teacher Perry Weiner.

    Her life story was the subject of the made-for-TV movie “From Homeless to Harvard. Murray was helped by programs while she lived in poverty and she said her main focus in speaking Wednesday was to encourage people to support the United Way’s “Poverty to Possibility movement. It is aimed at developing long-term solutions to reduce childhood poverty in the region. Nearly one-third of children live in poverty in Luzerne County.

    Last year, the United Way’s campaign raised $3.4 million. A monetary amount for this year was not set, but United Way President/CEO Bill Jones said its goal is to change the community and he will define its success by the number of lives changed. He said Murray’s story was one of perseverance and he hopes it inspires everyone.

    “Very few people get to Harvard, but there are a lot of kids like Liz Murray that with some help and guidance, could be successful, Jones said.

    dallabaugh@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2115


    Dolly Parton's Imagination Library making a difference locally

    And then their mom brought out a book “Just One More" and the boys stopped what they were doing and listened.

    The Chromey family is participating in the United Way of Wyoming Valley’s Imagination Library, which provides a free, high-quality, age-appropriate book each month to all children enrolled in the program. Bill Jones, president and CEO of the local United Way, said the agency recently enrolled its 1,000th student in the program.

    The United Way, Jones said, is reinforcing its emphasis on the importance of early childhood education as a means to reduce regional childhood poverty by launching a franchise of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. The international program was originated by the country music icon based on her belief that children can be prepared for a lifetime of success in reading and learning when families read together every day in the years before children start school.

    The program is for children up to age 5, Jones said, with the goal of improving literacy. He said studies have shown that children who learn to read earlier perform much better throughout their academic career.

    “The studies show that children who read early do better in school, Jones said. “And children who do better in school, do better in life.

    Chromey, a kindergarten teacher in Pittston Area School District, said the program has helped her kids. She also has biological twin daughters, age 5.

    “My girls read to the boys and that benefits all of them, Chromey said. “We are working on learning language with the boys. We focus on words and pictures.

    Jones said the Imagination Library is a game-changing initiative.“The program currently provides books to 700,000 children in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, Jones said. “It’s designed to dramatically increase literacy rates, has achieved stunning results, and we’re thrilled to provide the program in the Wyoming Valley. Jones said the feedback he has received from parents has been overwhelming.


    “They tell us that the kids look forward to the day when the books arrive each month, Jones said. “They want to read. We recognize that education is a critical part of our strategy for addressing the issue of children living in poverty.

    There are no income requirements to participate in the program, Jones said.


    Of the more than 40 public, private and charter elementary schools in Luzerne County, Jones said only two have met the state’s proficiency levels for third grade reading standards Bear Creek Charter School and Dallas Elementary School. “Studies show that areas with schools with higher graduation rates and lower drop-out rates have lower crime rates, Jones said. “And a key indicator of high school graduation rates can be traced back to third grade reading levels. Jones said children are learning to read up to the third grade and after that they read to learn.

    Chromey said she spends about an hour per day reading with her boys and also at bedtime.

    Jones said with 1,000 children enrolled in the Imagination Library, it tells him that there is a real desire and appreciation for the program. “Families just can’t afford books, Jones said. “All of the books are free to the families with children up to 5 years old.

    Chromey said as a teacher, she loves to see her students come to school with these type books. “This is a critical time in their intellectual development, she said. “My boys love to sit with me reading the books. And they love to listen to their sisters read too.

    Jones said the United Way hopes that families who have limited access to resources like new books will continue to enroll their children. “The Imagination Library has the potential to change the trajectory of a child’s life, Jones said. “Science tells us that 90 percent of a person’s brain is developed by age 5. Reading to and with young children is the most effective way to increase their intellectual capacity and its results affect their entire lives.


    Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.



    Financial Programs at the United Way Wyoming Valley


    United Way of Wyoming Valley approves grants for 27 programs


    WILKES-BARRE The United Way of Wyoming Valley approved grants on Friday for 27 programs focused on reducing childhood poverty. Fifty-one programs applied.The organization’s board of directors approved the $1,625,000 in funding for 19 local non-profit organizations that serve Wyoming Valley children and families living in poverty. The grants mark the first-ever allocations under the United Way’s new “Poverty to Possibility model and complete a three-year process of transforming the agency’s mission to make long-term investments to yield changes in the community.“Today was a milestone moment for the United Way, said Bill Jones, president and chief executive of the United Way of Wyoming Valley.Jones on Friday joined Carl Witkowski, board chair, and Jennifer Deemer, vice president of community impact, to discuss the grants designated for programs that focus on education, income, health and safety-net services.Witkowski said the grant recipients were chosen after two years of research and data analysis. United Way partnered with member agencies, donors and service recipients to determine the root cause negatively impacting the quality of life in the Wyoming Valley.“We didn’t pick childhood poverty. It picked us as the root cause here in the Wyoming Valley, he said.The organization, agencies and community members spent the next year identifying the types of programs that will move the needle on childhood poverty here in the Wyoming Valley,he said. Some agencies that the organization funded in the past are not receiving funding going forward if their missions don’t align with reducing childhood poverty, Jones said.“All of the programs that we’ve been funding in the past are doing good work. We shifted, Jones said. “They’re still good folks doing good things in the community, except we need to focus on the issues of childhood poverty as the root cause of so many other issues in the community.”One reason the United Way’s mission change was expanded to a three-year process was to ensure a smooth transition, Witkowski said. Three years ago, all member agencies were informed the United Way was moving in a different direction, he said.The 51 programs applied for nearly $2.5 million, more money than the United Way of Wyoming Valley had available to distribute, Jones said“We had to make some really hard choices, he said. “Each of those programs were rated in terms of their potential impact on childhood poverty.

    Programs that were funded included the McGlynn Center, which received $55,000 for its after-school programs at Boulevard Townhomes and Mineral Springs housing developments and Maternal and Family Health Services, which received $30,000 for its Nurse-Family Partnership program.“We’re thrilled with this grant, said Ann Russin, executive vice president of Maternal and Family Health Services.She said the Nurse-Family Partnership is a preventative health and home visiting program that starts with young pregnant women and stays with them until the child turns 2.

    Sister Eleace King, executive director of the McGlynn Center, said their after-school program is a safe place. They watch children and do homework with them from 2 to 7 p.m., high-risk hours when they could get into trouble.“In the 27 years of the program, not a single child in the learning center has ever been involved with the juvenile justice system,she said. “If you want to think in terms of money, we have saved the City of Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Wilkes University’s new SHINE (Schools and Homes in Education) program, which provides after-school programs for children pre-K through grade 12 year-round, received $80,000.State Sen. John Yudichak, U.S. Rep. Lou Bartletta and Patrick F. Leahy, president of Wilkes University, emailed statements Friday praising the funding for the SHINE program.“Luzerne County SHINE is an essential tool to boost student achievement, strengthen communities and provide positive pathways for the children of Luzerne County, Yudichak said. “With its commitment to the SHINE program, the United Way of Wyoming Valley is taking a bold stance against childhood poverty and making a significant investment in the families of northeastern Pennsylvania.

    dallbaugh@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2115


    United Way of Wyoming Valley fuels Dial-a-Driver

    United Way of Wyoming Valley awards $1.6M in grants to target childhood poverty


    WILKES-BARRE Call it the new way of making an impact.

    The United Way of Wyoming Valley Friday announced the awarding of $1.625 million in grants under its new community impact model aimed at reducing childhood poverty and guiding families toward self-sufficiency.

    The grants are for one year with a commitment for a second year of funding, depending on the success of the United Way’s annual fundraising campaign.

    Thirteen grants were awarded for education, three for income impact and 11 for health programs. An additional 10 programs were awarded grants through the agency’s Safety Net Program to support access to food, shelter and protective services.

    Carl Witkowski, chairman of the United Way board, said the process of transforming the agency’s philosophy and allocation process began three years ago.

    “Based on research and community input, we identified childhood poverty as a root cause of many of the serious problems facing the Wyoming Valley, and we invited the entire community to join in the challenge of reducing it, Witkowski said. “That community buy-in is not only reflected in today’s funding of programs which have been supported in the past, but also with 11 new programs proven to make a difference in lives of at-risk families.

    Bill Jones, president and CEO of the agency, said the community investment is an important step for United Way and the entire Wyoming Valley toward improving the odds for children and families living in poverty.

    “Volunteers, staff, and area non-profits have worked diligently over the past year to identify or develop effective, evidence-based programs aimed at helping at-risk children and showing their families pathways to self-sufficiency, and they’ve accomplished that, Jones said.

    Jones and Witkowski said the process that resulted in the approved grants was based on the recommendations of United Way Community Investment Committees in each area. Volunteers with expertise in their respective areas did extensive evaluations of non-profit proposals.

    Katie Makowski, child care director at the Wilkes-Barre Catholic Youth Center, said the funding will have a positive direct impact on the children served by the agency in its Pre-School Readiness Program and the School-Age Development Program.

    The pre-school program received $19,500 and the school-age program received $38,256. It serves children age six weeks through 5 years.

    Makowski said the pre-school program serves 130 children with another 27 on the waiting list. The school-age program has 120 enrolled and another 300 in the summer program. Participants are ages 5 through 14.

    “This funding will help families who otherwise could not afford to enroll their children in our programs, Makowski said. “The outcomes are measured and we have seen significant growth in the emotional, academic and physical skills of the children.

    Kelly Ranieli, executive director at Volunteers In Medicine, said the clients served by the clinic will benefit greatly from the United Way funding. VIM received two grants ‿$30,000 for its dental program, A Healthy Smile for a Healthy Start, and $120,000 for its Increased Care Initiative.

    Ranieli said VIM has 12,000 registered patients and about 175 are seen each week.

    The $1.625 million was distributed as follows:

    Education: Education Impact Grants support programs that help at-risk children enter kindergarten ready to learn and move through school and beyond graduation with confidence. United Way awarded 13 grants totaling $695,000, a 40 percent increase in the amount awarded in this category over last year.

    Income: Income Impact Grants support programs to help at-risk individuals and families achieve greater financial stability. United Way awarded 3 grants totaling $80,000.

    Health: Health Impact Grants support programs to help at-risk children and families achieve good health and avoid risky behaviors that prevent them from obtaining education or employment. United Way awarded 11 grants totaling $437,500, a 53 percent increase that directly supports maternal and other early childhood health programs.

    Safety Net: Ten programs were awarded funding totaling $412,500 to support access to food, shelter and protective services.

    Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

    Check out the story of how United Way and VOA helps Patty keep her independence!

    mother of the bride dresses

    Dial-a-Driver Program gives a "lift" to Disabled and Elderly

    For Kingston resident Patty Melvin, Volunteers of America’s Dial-A-Driver program is a valuable service that allows her to run errands and keep appointments.Melvin, who lives alone, has cerebral palsy, which makes walking difficult. On Thursday, a Dial-A-Driver van picked her up at her home, drove her to Community Bank in Kingston and Gerrity’s in Luzerne and took her back home.

    “It’s been a big help for me, Melvin said. “With my disability, it would be very difficult for me to get to a local bus stop. Even taking a taxi, I could wait an hour if not more. What’s hard with the taxi with me is their meter runs from the time they go to your door and it takes me so long to get from my door to that taxi.

    Dial-A-Driver is much cheaper than a taxi it costs her about $10 for a round trip, she said. “It has really helped me out a lot with necessary medical appointments during the day, banking, shopping, she said. “In many ways, it has improved my quality of life.

    The United Way of Wyoming Valley provides a $15,232 grant to Volunteers of America on behalf of Dial-A-Driver and will determine in the spring how much will be provided next year, said Bill Jones, United Way president and chief executive officer. The funding supports transportation services for nearly 100 disabled or older adults in the Wyoming Valley. The program has been operating in the area for more than 40 years and United Way of Wyoming Valley has been funding it for the last 15 years.The program started at Church of Christ Uniting in Kingston and Volunteers of America continued it when the church could no longer fund it, said Jones, who formerly served as vice president and chief operating officer of Volunteers of America. “A program like Dial-A-Driver is really a quality of life issue for many in need and it’s really part of the safety net of our community, Jones said. “The United Way is committed to funding the safety net.

    While the United Way’s funds support transportation services for nearly 100 disabled or older adults, Volunteers of America’s program served a total of 153 last year and also receives funds from Luzerne County, said Terri Hogan, transportation manager for Volunteers of America. The majority of those who receive transportation services live alone, do not have family or their family works during the day, she said. Five drivers and seven vans provided about 17,700 rides last year and it was costly when gas prices were high, she said. Volunteers of America is always asking for more funds to keep the program going and accepts private donations, she said.

    “We work with what we got and provide service to the people who need it and we’re just glad we can provide this to a lot of people who have no family and need transportation or their family works during the day and they can’t get transportation, Hogan said. “A lot of people are in wheelchairs and need service that taxi cabs can’t provide so it’s more of a personal trip for them and they feel more comfortable.

    The Dial-A-Driver service is provided Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. throughout the Wyoming Valley and Volunteers of America needs a three-day notice. For more information about the program, call Volunteers of America at 570-825-5261.

    (Citizen's Voice)

    Bill Jones: Let's commit in Wyoming Valley...

    Dial-A-Driver Gives Rides to Elderly, Disabled

    KINGSTON Patricia Melvin lives on her own and has health issues that force her to use crutches to walk.

    That disability makes routine trips to the bank and grocery store difficult. She said she thought of using public transportation, but did not like the idea of long waits.

    Dial-A-Driver, however, has made daily trips easier not only for Melvin, but hundreds of other elderly citizens and those with disabilities in the Wyoming Valley. The service, provided by Volunteers of America and funded by the United Way of Wyoming Valley, uses seven wheelchair-accessible vans to provide door-to-door transportation daily for older and disabled adults.

    Melvin, of Kingston, used the service to go to the bank and then to Gerrity’s in Luzerne on Thursday. She was greeted by her bus driver, George Wanyo, who helped her get into the bus. She said she uses the service to get herself to doctors appointments and other errands. She has been using the Dial-a-Driver service for over 20 years. She learned about the service from a disabled friend, and has used it ever since.

    “I was always hesitant to use transportation because I always heard these stories about long waits, people waiting hours and everything, she said. “They told me about Dial-a-Driver, and it really worked out very well for me.

    Terri Hogan, a spokeswoman for Volunteers of America, said 17,000 rides are now provided to 153 individuals. About 20 new clients are added each year, she said.Hogan said rides are offered daily from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The service carries a $10 round-trip fee for trips in Wilkes-Barre, Kingston and the surrounding areas. For trips to the Pittston area, there’s a $11 round-trip fee. Hogan not only said the rides have a reasonable rate, but also a different experience than with public transportation. “This a little bit more personalized for that individual who needs that transportation, Hogan said.

    The service has been offered for over 40 years. United Way President chief executive officer Bill Jones said Dial-A-Driver was created shortly after the 1972 flood by the Church of Christ Uniting in Kingston. It served the elderly and disabled up until December 1999, when financial troubles put the service’s future in question. “In 1999, the organization was just out of money, out of funds to run, he said. Jones began working with Volunteers of America in April 2000, and his first call on his second day at work was calling the United Way to secure funding. “The United Way had just done a needs assessment study that said transportation was a huge issue, Jones said. “Because of United Way United Way dollars, at the time, sustained and gave us hope that maybe we could hold onto this for a little bit. That sparked fundraising and government funding for the service. Jones said it takes $185,000 a year to keep the service up and running, and operates “at break even.The United Way of Wyoming Valley is also currently providing a $15,232 grant to Volunteers of America to support the service.

    “Dial-A-Driver, in many ways, I think, improves one’s quality of life, Melvin said.


    Bill Jones: Let's commit in Wyoming Valley...

    United Way of Wyoming Valley Grateful to be part of new Sundance Vacations Charities website

    Sundance Vacations is happy to announce the launch of its new charity site Sundance Vacations Charities: http://sundancevacationscharities.com

    Co-owners John and Tina Dowd are strong advocates for supporting those in need, especially when it comes to helping improve lives and creating long-lasting changes and relationships. The United Way of Wyoming Valley is one of the many organizations the Dowds believe deserves recognition. The Sundance Vacations Charities site features companies that both the Dowds and employees think are worthy causes for assistance.

    The site brings all the charities Sundance Vacations donates to into one, central place where viewers have access to information about each charity’s individual location(s), news and information, as well as a direct link to their page to donate. It also features a different charity each month to help raise awareness of diverse causes.

    Some local charities lack the exposure to branch out online for help and it is Sundance Vacation’s goal to shed some light on these organizations. Later down the road, the site hopes to handle donation requests and scholarship inquiries.

    “We encourage not just the people around us, but everyone to get involved, said Tina Dowd. “No matter what way you devote part of yourself to a charity, it will be sure to repay you ten-fold when you take a look back at your life.

    Together we can unite and proactively bring awareness to many great causes that deserve recognition and help!

    For more information about how you can support the United Way of Wyoming Valley or other charities, see Sundance Vacations news site: http://sundancevacationsnews.com/

    Bill Jones: Let's commit in Wyoming Valley...

    United Way of Wyoming Valley Thanks Workplace Supporters; Announces $3.350 Million Goal to Date

    On Thursday, January 22nd, United Way of Wyoming Valley shared some good news about its Annual Campaign with more than 100 representatives of local business, industry and education who helped fuel that campaign. At an Appreciation Luncheon at the Genetti Hotel and Conference Center, United Way revealed to executives and employees who helped coordinate campaigns in their workplaces that the 2014-2015 Campaign was on track to top $3,350,000.

    “This was the first campaign that raised funds to support our new Community Impact model, which is focused on reducing childhood poverty as a root cause of the most severe issues in our communitysaid Sordoni, who served as Campaign Co-Chair along with his wife Jennifer. “As the organization moved from a general focus on fundraising to a concentrated focus on community impact, the goals of the campaign needed to move as well. Our financial goal was at a minimum to match the dollars raised in the past, which we were able to accomplish. Our broader goal was to engage and educate the community about the importance of our new mission, and the response we received was phenomenal. People are really connecting with the mission and we’re both delighted to have helped launch this exciting new endeavor.

    The representatives of the business, industry and education partners attending Thursday’s Appreciation Lunch were a large part of the effort to make the current campaign a successful one. The United Way of Wyoming Valley’s shift to Community Impact, with a focus of helping children in poverty and showing their families the pathway to financial stability, spurred increased workplace participation .Over 200 local companies and educational institutions hosted employee campaigns, with 12 new community partners inviting United of Wyoming Valley to share its “Poverty to Possibility message with employees and signing on for an employee campaign. Most existing workplace campaigns also showed increased donations.

    “There’s no question, our focus on reducing childhood poverty in order make long term change to better the Wyoming Valley resonated with the community as a whole and with folks in the workplace in particular, said United Way of Wyoming Valley President and CEO Bill Jones. Our “Poverty to Possibility message truly connected with the people in this room today, who brought their enthusiasm and belief in Community Impact to their co-workers, who then embraced it. We’re incredibly grateful for their support for the “Poverty to Possibility movement as well as their donations which will help bring it to reality.

    United Way of Wyoming Valley is in the process of its transformation from the traditional role of community fundraiser and funder, to a Community Impact model, in which United Way is a problem solver and convener of community members with a mission of effecting lasting change on key problems and issues. Under the new model, all facets of the community are invited to take part in United Way’s attempt to treat the root causes of those problems and issues. The first round of Community Impact grants to the community will be made in late May 2015. United Way of Wyoming Valley’s fiscal year closes at the end of June.

    United Way of Wyoming Valley CEO Bill Jones at Mountain Top Food Pantry

    United Way of Wyoming Valley Supports Mountain Top Food Pantry

    Published: January 6, 2015 Citizensvoice.com

    As part of its annual Christmas in July food drive, the United Way of Wyoming Valley recently awarded a $1,500 grant to the Mountain Top Food Pantry. Grants were awarded to 14 food pantries across Wyoming Valley to help build capacity to handle the greater demand for food during the holiday season and throughout the winter months, and to help address the nutritional needs of at-risk children and families throughout the community. At the grant presentation at the Mountain Top Food Pantry, from left, are United Way of Wyoming Valley representatives Bill Jones, president and CEO, and Jennifer Deemer, director of community impact; and pantry representatives Florence Pedley and Louise Wendt.




    United Way of Wyoming Valley kicks off campaign against childhood poverty

    United Way focusing on education, income and health

    Published: November 20. 2014 6:25PM, Timesleader.com

    Many children ‿too many, according to social workers ‿are hungry, poor and barely holding on.

    That's how Jen Sordoni began her speech at the campaign kickoff for the United Way of Wyoming Valley earlier this month, while 500 business and community members listened to the new mission of the United Way: fighting childhood poverty.

    The new model is called “Poverty to Possibility.‿Research shows that some of the main issues in the Wyoming Valley are crime and safety, housing, education and addiction. But there's one common factor to all these problems ‿impoverished households.


    United Way of Wyoming Valley Board of Directors Approves Community Impact Grant Funding Process

    United Way discusses its new approach

    Published: November 20, 2014, Timesleader.com

    Application Submissions must fall in line with Childhood Poverty Impact Focus

    WILKES-BARRE ‿The United Way of Wyoming Valley Thursday announced that its new mission ‿“Poverty to Possibility‿‿has moved from its two and half years of planning to the action stage.

    Officials said the change from a community chest model to the community impact model is aimed at reducing childhood poverty in the greater Wyoming Valley, thereby reducing overall need.

    “The strategy of improving educational and health opportunities for children living in poverty and showing their families the path to stability improves life for the entire community,‿said Carl J. Witkowski, chairman of the United Way of Wyoming Valley’s board.


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    United Way focusing on education, income and health

    Published: September 28, 2014 3:13PM, Timesleader.com

    Many children ‿too many, according to social workers ‿are hungry, poor and barely holding on.

    That's how Jen Sordoni began her speech at the campaign kickoff for the United Way of Wyoming Valley earlier this month, while 500 business and community members listened to the new mission of the United Way: fighting childhood poverty.

    The new model is called “Poverty to Possibility.‿Research shows that some of the main issues in the Wyoming Valley are crime and safety, housing, education and addiction. But there's one common factor to all these problems ‿impoverished households.


    United Way of Wyoming Valley kicks off campaign against childhood poverty

    United Way Announces Community Campaign Donor Incentives

    Published: September 9, 2014, Citizen's Voice

    Photo: Members of the MotorWorld Group which donated a two-year lease on a 2015 Chrysler 200, from left, are Rick Osick, president; Stacy Otero, marketing director, and Shelley Puzzetti, customer relations manager, with the United Way of Wyoming Valley's Matt Ceruti, director of workforce relations.

    Donors to this year's United Way of Wyoming Valley Community Campaign will have the opportunity to win a number of prizes thanks to gifts from area businesses and community members.

    Any donor contributing $3 or more per week to the campaign will be eligible to enter the drawing for prizes. The deadline for entry is Dec. 1.

    Grand prizes for this year include a two-year lease of a 2015 Chrysler 200 compliments of MotorWorld and a seven-day/six-night Stay in Rincon, Puerto Rico.

    Other prizes include a three-minute shopping spree from Wegmans, an HP ElitePad 1000 Tablet PC compliments of GBM, $400 worth of products from Procter and Gamble, a one- night stay at the Hilton Garden Inn and a suite at the Mohegan Sun Arena for a select event, $400 of shelving from InterMetro Industries Inc., a suite for a Penguins home game compliments of Citizens Bank, a one-night stay at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs and two tickets to an event at its Keystone Grand Ballroom, four $50 gift cards from the Bon-Ton, and two six-month free memberships compliments of VIVE Health and Fitness.


    Bill Jones: Let's commit in Wyoming Valley...

    Bill Jones: Let's Commit In Wyoming Valley

    To Our Most Important Role: Raising Children

    By Bill Jones

    Published: September 8, 2014, Timesleader

    Those who know me or have worked with me know that I absolutely love the work I do. I find the mission of the United Way of Wyoming Valley to be tremendously meaningful and rewarding, and I really do not mind the fast pace, long hours or attending numerous evening events each month.

    The Friday before Labor Day, however, was very different for me. I couldn't wait to leave the office. I wasn't going on vacation. My family didn't have any special plans. I wasn't motivated by the chance to relax for three days, nor was I overly excited about the start of the NCAA football season as I usually would be.


    United Way of Wyoming Valley kicks off campaign against childhood poverty

    United Way of Wyoming Valley
    Kicks Off Campaign Against Childhood Poverty

    Leader says fund drive 'marks the beginning of a new era'
    By Joe Sylvester

    Published: September 5, 2014, Timesleader


    The United Way of Wyoming Valley, the largest fundraising organization for community needs in the area, kicked off its 2014 campaign on Thursday evening with a laser-beam focus on childhood poverty.

    With statistics showing 29 percent of all children in Luzerne County and 33 percent of all children under 5 years old in the county living in poverty, United Way officials determined childhood poverty was the greatest need.

    The approximately 500 community and business leaders and volunteers who gathered at the kickoff reception in the Keystone Ballroom of Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs learned of the "Poverty to Possibility" movement, the theme of the campaign, and heard from Susan Dreyfus, a national expert and advocate in the fight against childhood poverty.


    The United Way of Wyoming Valley set its sights on childhood poverty at its annual campaign event on Thursday.

    United Way Kicks Off Annual Campaign


    Published: September 5, 2014, Citizen's Voice

    The United Way of Wyoming Valley set its sights on childhood poverty at its annual campaign event on Thursday.

    "If you can get underneath child poverty and strengthen their families and help those kids get off to a really good start in life, you're going to change the economic fabric of this entire community," Susan N. Dreyfus, president and CEO of Alliance for Children and Families, said during her keynote address at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs casino.

    "Nearly 29 percent of all children living in the Wyoming Valley area are living in poverty," said Bill Jones, United Way of Wyoming Valley president and CEO. For children under the age of 5, he said one in three live in poverty.

    \, who co-chairs the campaign with his wife Jennifer Sordoni, said the organization identified childhood poverty as the area's top issue based on a two-year study.




    United Way 2014 Campaign Co-Chair Bill Sordoni reads a book to kids visiting the Osterhout Free Library Thursday morning.


    United Way of Wyoming Valley
    Launches Dolly Parton Imagination Library!

    Published: August 28, 2014, Timesleader

    United Way 2014 Campaign Co-Chair Bill Sordoni reads a book to kids visiting the Osterhout Free Library Thursday morning. Bill and his wife Jennifer co-chair the United Way's upcoming campaign and they were at the library to kick off a new program called the "Dolly Parton Imagination Library" — an early literacy initiative that provides new, high quality, age appropriate books each month to kids from birth to age five free of charge.

    Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County "Llama Llama likes to sing. Gilroy laughs at everything," read Jennifer Sordoni. She and her husband, Bill, were front and center Thursday for children's story time at the Osterhout Free Library in Wilkes-Barre. The co-chairs of United Way of Wyoming Valley's latest fundraising campaign read the book "Llama Llama and The Bully Goat". It's one of the books available for free to kids in the Wyoming Valley who register for a newly launched program called the "Dolly Parton Imagination Library". "This is really a characteristic of a change in the organization where we're moving from pure fundraising and distribution to actually investment," said United Way of Wyoming Valley Chairman of the Board Carl J. Witkowski.



    United Way-Sponsored Imagination Library
    to Provide Free Books to Kids

    Air Date: August 28, 2014, PA Homepage

    Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County -- "Llama Llama likes to sing. Gilroy laughs at everything," read Jennifer Sordoni. She and her husband, Bill, were front and center Thursday for children's story time at the Osterhout Free Library in Wilkes-Barre. The co-chairs of United Way of Wyoming Valley's latest fundraising campaign read the book "Llama Llama and The Bully Goat". It's one of the books available for free to kids in the Wyoming Valley who register for a newly launched program called the "Dolly Parton Imagination Library".



    United Way of Wyoming Valley's Poverty to Possibility 2014 Campaign Kick Off

    Poverty to Possibility Campaign Kick Off!

    Join us Thursday, September 4th from 5:30PM-7:30PM as we launch our Poverty to Possibility Movement, and kick off our 2014 United Way Campaign at the Keystone Ballroom Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.

    The United Way of Wyoming Valley has changed the way it helps the community. It's become an "issue-driven" organization, and research shows a leading problem in the Wyoming Valley is children living in poverty. Through its "Poverty to Possibility" movement, the United Way is focused on making lasting change by reducing poverty among children and their families in our community.

    LEARN MORE About the Poverty to Possibility Movement.


    United Way of Wyoming Valley would like to thank the King's College freshman how helped with our plesge forms.

    Kings College Volunteers, Thank you!

    Talk about King's Power! This roomful of King's College freshman is doing some community service, by helping assemble more of United Way of Wyoming Valley's 30-thousand campaign pledge forms. Thank you and go King's College, Pennsylvania!





    United Way of Wyoming Valley would like to thank all the great volunteers from Mondelez International.

    Thank you to all the volunteers from Mondelez International!

    A huge thank you to these volunteers from Mondelez International, who helped make a dent in the 30K! pledge forms we have to assemble for next month's United Way Campaign! They did a great job, and yes, they were running on pizza fuel...




    United Way of Wyoming Valley CEO Bill Jones

    United Way of Wyoming Valley takes aim at childhood poverty.

    Published: August 13, 2014, Citizen’s Voice

    I am not much of a gambler, and because all the rules are a bit challenging to remember, I never play poker. Yet, as the United Way of Wyoming Valley's 2014 campaign is set to kick off on Sept. 4 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, I am confident in our hand and I am "all in."

    Over the years, as most already know, social service need in the Wyoming Valley has been rapidly growing. Since 2012, the United Way's board of directors has been studying the issues that are fueling this growth and evaluating ways to more strategically invest our donors' dollars to reduce the ever-increasing need.

    Our research has been thorough and our planning has been extensive. We have surveyed hundreds of residents, hosted dozens of conversations throughout the community, and convened scores of volunteers to bring a clearer focus to our work and partnerships. We have looked at our area's crime and safety factors, academic achievement levels, economic development and workforce quality issues, government spending trends, health barriers and other key concerns.

    One common denominator negatively impacting all of these areas is the complicated issue of poverty. Breaking the cycle of poverty, however, requires more than just money. It requires community understanding, engagement and leadership. By being united and working together, we can all play a role in bringing real and lasting change to our community.... READ THE ENITRE STORY


    High quality Early Childhood education is essential to United Way of Wyoming Valley's Poverty to Possibility movement.

    Please check out and support Pre-K for PA!

    We're just under 100 days until Election Day on Nov. 4. Join our 100-days push to make high-quality pre-k a priority issue in the elections for governor and general assembly: prekforpa.org/100days

    From now until Election Day, Pre-K for PA will demonstrate the deep and broad support Pennsylvanians have for making high-quality pre-k accessible to all children. We will lift up the stories of Pennsylvania parents, educators, businesspeople, law enforcement professionals and community leaders who know firsthand the importance of high-quality pre-k and want to see candidates for office make it a priority during the campaign season.

    And we will roll out ways for early learning supporters to take action on behalf of our children – because kids can't vote, but we can.