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United Way of Carbon merges

  • David Lewis, president of United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, addresses attendees as executive Vice President Marci Ronald looks on.
    David Lewis, president of United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, addresses attendees as executive Vice President Marci Ronald looks on.
Published July 01. 2016 10:53AM

After 25 years run by a volunteer board, the United Way of Carbon County has officially merged with the United Way of Greater Lehigh Valley.

On Thursday, local organizations who depend on United Way for fundraising got to meet the leaders of the new combined organization. They pledged to help grow the amount of money raised in Carbon County, and made it clear that experienced local volunteers will be a vital part of that mission.

"The number one thing in philanthropy is not having a good fundraiser, people give to a mission that they believe in. I try to communicate the mission, and we need your voices to help communicate the work you're doing in the community," David Lewis, executive director of United Way of Greater Lehigh Valley said.

United Way of Carbon County was an all-volunteer organization that raised more than $30,000 annually, and received another $35,000, which people in other areas designated to be sent here.

Compare that with United Way of Greater Lehigh Valley, which has dozens of staff members, and raised more than $11 million last year.

Former board members of the Carbon County chapter said that the merger was done first and foremost with the people of the county in mind.

Dr. Lisa Bleicher, who served on the board, said that the added resources will help provide more money for Carbon County organizations.

"Being run by a small volunteer board hasn't given us the ability to get the presence, to get these large companies involved with us, and that's one of the reasons we felt the merger and partnership would be a huge justice to us all," Bleicher said.

Representatives from groups like ARC of Carbon County and Shepherd House were concerned about how the money raised locally would stay local.

Bill Gallagher of Meals on Wheels asked whether United Way's fundraising could potentially take away money from partners they already had donating.

"We're not here to rob Peter to pay Paul," Lewis said. "I think it's really critical that you keep those relationships that you have with those agencies."

Tina Dowd wanted to know what they do to plan to publicize their presence in Carbon County.

Lewis said those plans are still being formulated.

He also called upon the groups, saying that their experience in the community would be vital to United Way of Greater Lehigh Valley creating a relationship with employers here.

"Well, technically as a board, (you are done)," he said. "But for the engagement that we need, we hope not. That's really what we're going to need, and where we are going to go."

Executive Vice President Marci Ronald said that specifics on how money will be allocated have yet to be determined.

She said that programs shouldn't be concerned that they are too small. But at the same time, she said she would not mince words if a program wasn't living up to its potential effectiveness.

"I want to get to know your program, I want to understand the work that you're doing, and talk about how we can move forward together," she said.

While some stakeholders were worrying about the pot of available money shrinking, Lewis clearly wasn't looking at it that way. He pointed out that if Carbon County residents gave at the national average, and no more, that the available money for groups in the county could grow to be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"It's going to take years to get to that, we're not going to get there overnight," he said. "But not even pie in the sky, it'd be north of half a million."

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