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


    United Way Donates to WVCA's Together We Grow Program

    The United Way of Wyoming Valley played Santa Claus to the Wyoming Valley Children’s Association and some of its students on Monday.United Way President/CEO Bill Jones donned a stocking cap and read “Frosty the Snowman” to children in the Together We Grow preschool program.

    Read more at http://www.timesleader.com/news/local/685895/united-way-donates-to-wvcas-together-we-grow-program

    Their View: 'Leveling the Mountain With a Teaspoon'

    Just before Thanksgiving, a colleague and I had the opportunity to appear on WILK’s Sue Henry Radio Show to talk about the good work of the United Way of Wyoming Valley. Sue Henry is a huge fan of our strategic focus on childhood poverty, and it is always a pleasure to be in her company or on her show.

    Read more at http://www.timesleader.com/opinion/op-ed/685653/their-view-leveling-the-mountain-with-a-teaspoon

    Additional Articles:
    * http://citizensvoice.com/opinion/united-way-working-to-level-the-mountains-of-childhood-poverty-1.2280272

    Letter to the Editor: Merged United Ways Will Honor Berwick Priorities

    As many in the community may already know, the Berwick Area United Way and the United Way of Wyoming Valley have begun dialogue and are considering the possibility of merging. Our United Ways have had a good working relationship for many, many years and we believe our partnership will help strengthen our abilities to address the needs of our communities.

    Read more at http://www.pressenterpriseonline.com/daily/121517/page/8/story/merged-united-ways-will-honor-berwick-priorities

    Identifying, Preventing Child Abuse Focus of Workshop

    Imagine you’re at a grocery store waiting in line behind a father and his three young children. The 5-year-old grabs a candy bar from the shelf, rips it open and begins to eat it. The father grabs the child, yanking him by the arm, and rips the candy bar from his mouth. The child starts to cry and the father seems extremely angry. What do you do?

    Read more at http://citizensvoice.com/news/identifying-preventing-child-abuse-focus-of-workshop-1.2274265

    6th Annual Giving Tuesday Kicks Off Charitable Season

    Fueled by the power of social media, Giving tuesday kicked off the charitable giving season with many nonprofit organizations hoping to benefit from the holiday spirit of giving. Kathy Bozinski, director of Marketing and Communications at United Way of Wyoming Valley, said Giving Tuesday, now in its sixth year, is a national effort to play off the consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, thus promoting GivingTuesday which is always the day after the big shopping weekend.

    Read more at https://www.timesleader.com/news/local/683765/6th-annual-giving-tuesday-kicks-off-charitable-season

    The Front Porch Project, a New United Way Initiative, Takes Aim At Two Pressing Problems In the Community, Child Abuse and Neglect

    The United Way of Wyoming Valley’s investment in children is taking on a serious and growing problem in the community. The initiative, tied to a national movement called the Front Porch Project, is a grass roots effort in neighborhoods to help recognize households where children, especially those in poverty, might be at risk of child maltreatment, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect.One neighborhood training session has been held and another is set for 5:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, at Marymount Parish Center, 154 S. Hancock St., Wilkes-Barre.

    Read more at http://m.citizensvoice.com/arts-living/the-front-porch-project-a-new-united-way-initiative-takes-aim-at-two-pressing-problems-in-the-community-child-abuse-and-neglect-1.2271824

    Their View: Child Abuse, Neglect Add Up To Trouble

    It was bound to happen … and it did. After 33 years, the Texas Instruments Business Analyst II calculator that I bought as a senior in college in 1984 no longer works. Several of the digits do not illuminate on the display and, last month, it was time to say goodbye to an old friend.

    Read more at http://www.timesleader.com/opinion/op-ed/681981/their-view-child-abuse-neglect-add-up-to-trouble

    Study Reveals Toll of Childhood Trauma

    DANVILLE, MONTOUR COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) -- A disturbing national trend is hitting close to home. It's an exposure in childhood that dramatically increases the risk for seven of the ten leading causes of death in the U.S. That exposure isn't a virus, drug or pesticide. It's childhood trauma which can impact physical and mental health for a lifetime. New national data sheds light on just how serious this issue is across the country and in Pennsylvania.

    Read more at http://www.pahomepage.com/news/study-reveals-toll-of-childhood-trauma/850066346

    PA Live: YCL United Way of Wyoming Valley & of Lackawanna & Wayne Counties Talk About Campaign

    Bill Jones, president and CEO at the United Way of Wyoming Valley, scheduled three presentations Friday to thank supporters for their help and to convince others to join the campaign. The three rallies Jones was doing — the first at Navient in the Hanover Industrial Park — are part of 160 to 180 he will do to educate the community on the United Way’s initiatives and to solicit support.

    Read more at http://www.pahomepage.com/community/pa-live/pa-live-ycl-united-way-of-wyoming-valley-of-lackawanna-wayne-counties-november-1-2017/849298137

    United Way of Wyoming Valley Goes Anywhere To Get Out Message

    Bill Jones, president and CEO at the United Way of Wyoming Valley, scheduled three presentations Friday to thank supporters for their help and to convince others to join the campaign. The three rallies Jones was doing — the first at Navient in the Hanover Industrial Park — are part of 160 to 180 he will do to educate the community on the United Way’s initiatives and to solicit support.

    Read more at http://www.timesleader.com/news/local/680301/united-way-of-wyoming-valley-goes-anywhere-to-get-out-message

    Sweet Rewards For Reading

    United Way of Wyoming Valley launched their first summer reading initiative in May at Kistler Elementary in Wilkes-Barre. The ‘Tag In’ program is designed to reduce the summer slide in reading skills. .

    Read more at http://citizensvoice.com/news/sweet-rewards-for-reading-1.2253579

    Additional Articles:
    * http://www.timesleader.com/news/678403/united-way-rewards-kistler-elementary-kids-for-summer-reading-success

    Stand Up For Children of Wyoming Valley

    Those who know me, even just a little bit, know I love my job at the United Way of Wyoming Valley. I am passionate about our community and believe our mission of helping at-risk children and families living in poverty is just, powerful and meaningful. We are about a month into our annual campaign season. As most can imagine, raising $3.5 million every year is a huge challenge.

    Read more at http://www.timesleader.com/opinion/op-ed/677968/stand-up-for-children-of-wyoming-valley

    United Way Holds Event on Transition From Pre-School to Grade School

    You might think getting a tyke to sit with a sweet-smelling, puffy marshmallow for 15 minutes before eating it would be simple lesson in delayed gratification. But it turns out if a 4-year-old resists the temptation, it can change him or her for life.“By middle school, the ones who ate the marshmallow had shorter fuses,” Lisa Murray told a crowd of 170 educators gathered for the “Early Childhood Transition Summit” on Friday morning at the Genetti Hotel & Conference Center. “At age 18, they looked at SAT scores, and those who didn’t eat the marshmallow averaged 210 points higher than those who ate the marshmallow.”

    Read more at http://www.timesleader.com/news/677874/united-way-holds-event-on-transition-from-pre-school-to-grade-school

    Groups Will Offer Opioid Education Workshops

    The average age that drug users start experimenting with drugs has dropped to 11 or 12, said Jason Harlen, CEO of Wyoming Valley Alcohol and Drug Services. Harlen continues to see many people addicted to drugs, including opiates, heroin and prescription pain medications. The growing regional opioid epidemic has spurred a new program and partnership to fund and deliver it.

    Read more at http://citizensvoice.com/news/groups-will-offer-opioid-education-workshops-1.2249190

    Middle School Students Participate in Derby Race

    The Food and Fun at the Park program, which provides free lunches, snacks and activities for children in Wilkes-Barre parks, is off to a good start this summer, according to one of the program’s organizers.The program serves about 750 school-aged children from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each weekday at six city parks and the Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA on West Northampton Street, according to Carol Hussa, healthy community coordinator for the YMCA.

    Read more at http://citizensvoice.com/arts-living/wilkes-1.2216368

    Parks Program Off To Good Start In W-B

    The Food and Fun at the Park program, which provides free lunches, snacks and activities for children in Wilkes-Barre parks, is off to a good start this summer, according to one of the program’s organizers.The program serves about 750 school-aged children from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each weekday at six city parks and the Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA on West Northampton Street, according to Carol Hussa, healthy community coordinator for the YMCA.

    Read more at http://citizensvoice.com/news/parks-program-off-to-good-start-in-w-b-1.2215196

    Program Aims To Keep Kids Reading

    “Tag! You’re it!”

    Words from a popular kids’ game have a more serious application this summer. If parents play this game, they are helping their children prepare for life.

    It’s the Tag In program of the United Way of Wyoming Valley and the Campaign for Grade Level Reading.

    As teachers “tag out” for the summer break, parents are asked to “tag in” to assure that their children continue to read from June to August, forestalling the “summer slide” that often sees kids lose reading skills.

    “United Way has been transformed,” said Bill Jones, United Way president and chief executive officer.

    Read more at http://citizensvoice.com/news/program-aims-to-keep-kids-reading-1.2211495

    Additional Article: http://www.pahomepage.com/news/nonprofit-creates-summer-reading-program-for-children/755103587

    Graduation Rates On the Rise In Pennsylvania

    In Luzerne County, the graduation rate hovers around 88%, according to the United Way of the Wyoming Valley. They say chronic absenteeism, lack of family engagement, and summer learning loss can have negative impacts on a student.

    "When those things impact you and you fall behind, it does impact graduation rates," says Bill Jones, president of the United Way of Wyoming Valley.

    High school graduates know that high school isn't easy from peer pressure to tough classes, but they say they made it to the finish line thanks to a great support system..

    Read more at http://www.pahomepage.com/news/graduation-rates-on-the-rise-in-pennsylvania/739082270

    United Way Grants To Provide More Than $1.3M in Funds To Local Groups

    The United Way of Wyoming Valley’s board of directors recently approved 36 grants, providing $1,390,011 in funding to 21 local agencies and organizations.

    Each project met criteria under one of four impact areas: education, income, health and safety net.

    Those awarded grants in the area of education included: Catholic Social Services Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Bridge, $55,000; Catholic Social Services Truancy Intervention Program, $35,000; Catholic Youth Center Preschool Readiness Program, $24,500; Catholic Youth Center School-Age Development Program, $38,256; Child Development Council of NEPA Child Care and Early Learning Program, $75,000; Luzerne Intermediate Unit Career Awareness and Exploration Program, $55,000; McGlynn Center After School Program, $60,000; Volunteers of America Caring Alternatives, $10,000; Wilkes University Schools and Homes In Education, Luzerne County, $70,000; Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA Early Childhood Education Child Care Program, $51,440; Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA Power Scholars Academy, $50,000; Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA Out-of-School Time Programs for Youth, $10,000; Wyoming Valley Children’s Association Together We Grow Preschool Program, $90,000.

    Read more at http://m.citizensvoice.com/news/united-way-grants-to-provide-more-than-1-3m-in-funds-to-local-groups-1.2200781

    Volunteers Give Back During 25th Annual Day of Caring

    Children at Luzerne County Head Start were excited when volunteers from Highmark and Benco Dental visited them in their classroom on Thursday.

    Volunteers also cleaned the children’s play equipment.

    They were among more than 1,000 volunteers from 70 business, health care and educational organizations who participated in the United Way of Wyoming Valley’s 25th annual Day of Caring.

    Volunteers went to 53 locations across the Wyoming Valley to help nonprofit and community-based agencies and organizations.

    Watch the 25th Annual Day of Caring Video now!

    Read more at http://citizensvoice.com/news/volunteers-give-back-during-25th-annual-day-of-caring-1.2197733

    Additional Articles:
    * https://timesleader.com/news/660145/fan-out-and-help-united-way-holds-25th-day-of-caring

    * http://www.pahomepage.com/news/wyoming-valley-united-way-25th-day-of-caring/722164595

    Help Fight Hunger With a Food Donation

    Help fight hunger with a food donation right at your home's mail box! United Way of Wyoming Valley, regional members of the National Association of Letter Carriers, and the US Postal Service are gearing up for the Letter Carriers “Stamp Out Hunger” Food Drive this Saturday, May 13th, 2017.

    All donations of nonperishable foods will support area food through the Commission on Economic Opportunity Weinberg Regional Food Bank..

    Teachers Learn How To Help Traumatrized Children

    According to the United Way of Wyoming Valley, roughly 33 percent of children under the age of five in Luzerne County are living in poverty.

    Officials said those children are most at risk of having traumatic experiences early on in life.

    Trauma is not always an injury. It can be anything from a parent being in jail, to divorce, and domestic violence.

    Early learning educators said discovering these problems when kids first show up to school can be difficult.

    "The children that we work with are very young and so it's many times the very first time they're out of their home," Lynn Evans Biga, executive director for Luzerne County Headstart.

    Read more at http://wnep.com/2017/04/27/teachers-learn-how-to-help-traumatized-children/

    Baker, United Way Honored For Commitment to Children

    For 155 years, Children’s Service Center has impacted the lives of countless children like state Sen. Lisa Baker’s husband, Gary.

    Gary Baker, who formerly served as the northeast regional director of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, said he was in the foster care system and found a loving home with adoptive parents on Feb. 7, 1957, when he was eight months old. He still celebrates the day he got a family.

    Baker introduced his wife at a luncheon held Monday at Genetti Hotel and Conference Center to celebrate the 155th anniversary of Children’s Service Center.

    The Bakers brought the only two possessions Gary arrived with when he was a foster child: a yellow snowsuit and a toy they continue to hang each year on their Christmas tree.

    She received the Commitment to Children Award and Bill Jones, president and chief executive officer of the United Way of Wyoming Valley, accepted the Community Partner Award.

    Read more at http://m.citizensvoice.com/news/baker-united-way-honored-for-commitment-to-children-1.2178884

    United Way Celebrating 25th Annual Day of Caring

    I realize this may be hard for some to believe, but, from time to time, my very patient wife can get upset with me. I am one of those guys who has a death grip on the remote control when we are watching television and I rarely watch commercials. I often flip between a show we might be watching together and another show or game I might also be interested in. For some unexplainable reason, this can test her patience and I am frequently told to hand over the remote or watch the TV in the basement.

    Although I have an aversion to watching commercials, I recently saw one that I really appreciate. It is a commercial from State Farm Insurance that portrays an average guy concerned about the many needs he sees all around him. As the commercial ends, the narrator says “you can lift the weight of caring by doing” and it encourages volunteerism. It is very well done, thought-provoking, and inspiring.

    As depicted in the commercial, the world we live in is not perfect and there are all kinds of needs and hardships. The needs we see and those that cause us to be concerned are a call to action for every one of us. Issues and problems rarely go away on their own. Caring is only the first step. The only real way needs get addressed or things get better is by doing.

    Read more at http://m.citizensvoice.com/opinion/united-way-celebrating-25th-annual-day-of-caring-1.2175566

    Moses Taylor Foundation Awards Nearly $600,000 in grants

    The Moses Taylor Foundation awarded nearly $600,000 in grants to promote health and wellness in Northeast Pennsylvania, the organization announced Monday.

    The $596,306 will be distributed to eight organizations in Lacka­wanna, Luzerne and Susquehanna counties, with the largest three allocations going to the United Way of Wyoming Valley, the Commission on Economic Opportunity and NEPA Community Health Care.

    Grants include $255,306 to fund a United Way effort to prevent child abuse through education; $125,000 for Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank healthy food distributions; and $120,000 to help NEPA Community Health Care renovate two facilities and upgrade its electronic record system.

    “This is huge for us,” said Bill Jones, chief executive officer of the United Way branch. “The United Way needs to look at resource development differently. As the workplace campaign changes, as employment and employers change over time, that affects our ability to raise money. ... This allows us to do things a bit differently than what we’ve done in the past to try to have a bigger impact.”

    Read more at http://m.thetimes-tribune.com/news/moses-taylor-foundation-awards-nearly-600-000-in-grants-1.2170376

    Report Shows More Local Children Are Diving Into Books

    More local children, and their parents, are diving into books and the kids are expanding their vocabularies because of it.

    The upbeat report on school-age children’s reading habits comes from the United Way of Wyoming Valley, which runs the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

    The success of Imagination Library has prompted the United Way to expand its programs, which focus on the importance of school readiness, school attendance and avoiding summer learning loss.

    The Dolly Parton Imagination Library program recently registered its 2,500th member. That is half way to the goal of 5,000 participants by 2020.

    Bill Jones, United Way president and chief executive officer, said Imagination Library was the “first step in underscoring the importance of reading and early learning for all children and in particular, those living in poverty.”

    Read more at http://m.citizensvoice.com/news/report-shows-more-local-children-are-diving-into-books-1.2163668

    Elementary Mash-Up: 'REAL MEN READ Across America' at Dodson Elementary

    If the idea was to encourage kindergarten students at Dodson Elementary to read more, Bill Jones succeeded before he even cracked open his copy of “Zack’s Alligator” on Thursday.

    “How many of you want to be a good reader?” the United Way of Wyoming Valley president asked the class eagerly gathered at his feet for an event marking national Read Across America Day.

    “I’m already a good reader!” one youngster shouted, prompting a rapid escalation of one-upmanship.

    “I only know how to read one book.”

    “I can read two books.”

    “I can read 100 books!”

    Jones came to the school dressed in pull-over shirt and a striped Cat in the Hat chapeau to combine the United Way’s “Real Men Read” program with the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day.

    Read more at https://timesleader.com/news/639094/elementary-mash-up-real-men-read-across-america-at-dodson-elementary

    United Way Shows Support For Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center

    The Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center receiving a generous show of support from the United Way of Wyoming Valley today.

    The Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center School-Age Development Program is the largest program in the region that supports children year-round, before and after school.

    They provide tutoring, homework help, recreational fun, and a healthy meal for kids.

    The United Way providing a check for $38,256 to support the program.

    Read more at http://fox56.com/news/local/united-way-shows-support-for-wyoming-valley-catholic-youth-center

    Additional Article: http://timesleader.com/news/635210/cyc-recieves-third-star-in-keystone-stars-after-school-program

    Wilkes University's SHINE receives grant from United Way

    United Way of Wyoming Valley (UWWV) presented $80,000 in grant funding to Wilkes University’s SHINE (Schools and Homes in Education) program at the Wilkes-Barre Area Career and Technical Center. SHINE provided home-based visitation services and year-round after-school programs for at-risk students and their families.

    Read more at http://timesleader.com/community-features/633289/wilkes-universitys-shine-receives-grant-from-united-way-of-wyoming-valley

    United Way Trying To Get Word Out On EITC

    Criday is the 11th annual “Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Awareness Day,” and the United Way of Wyoming Valley is trying get the word out to folks who are eligible about it.

    According to Kathy Bozinski, United Way’s director of marketing and communications, the agency funds the free VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program through the Commission on Economic Opportunity, and this year, more individuals and families are eligible to get the EITC Credit.

    According to the United Way:

    • In 2016, 26 million workers received more than $65.6 billion in EITC refunds.

    • If you worked last year and had income of less than $53,505, check out your eligibility for EITC.

    • EITC can mean up to a $6,269 refund when you file a return if you have qualifying children. Workers without a qualifying child could be eligible for a smaller credit up to $506. On average, EITC adds $2,400 to refunds.

    Read more at https://timesleader.com/news/local/628250/united-way-trying-to-get-word-out-on-eitc-eligibility


    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.php

    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 /dolly.php.

    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: /dolly.php

    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!

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    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.