United Way still reaching for the goal

WEIRTON – Friday was an opportunity for the community to learn the status of the Weirton United Way’s 2012-2013 campaign fundraising efforts, and to encourage volunteers to continue reaching toward the organization’s $280,000 goal.

The United Way held its third report luncheon of the campaign Friday, with officials, volunteers and representatives of the 15 member agencies gathering at the Serbian American Cultural Center.

It was announced the campaign currently stands at $241,364.28, or approximately 85 percent of the goal. United Way officials, however, said they would continue working until that final dollar has been raised.

“Close isn’t good enough,” Weirton United Way Executive Board President John Frankovitch said. “I have no doubt we’re going to get there.”

Friday’s report also served as an opportunity to recognize an area resident for his close to 50 years of service to the community and the United Way. This year’s Don Donell Community Service Award was presented to Chuck Cronin in honor of his dedication to the organization, which includes several years as its executive director.

“I love the United Way,” Cronin said while accepting the award. “I know the people would be hurting without the money that goes to these agencies.”

The Don Donell Community Service Award is named in memory of Donell, who was president of Starvaggi Industries and dedicated many years serving the community, including the United Way. Donell died in April 2011.

Campaign Chair John Greco took some time to share his experiences heading up this year’s fundraising efforts.

Greco explained Frankovitch initially asked him to take a leadership role in the United Way in 2011. Through several discussions with Frankovitch and Weirton businessman Romie Castelli, who promised their support, Greco eventually agreed.

“Today, John is here, Romie is wintering in Florida, and I’m a little short on my goal,” he joked.

Greco shared a few stories from the beginning of the campaign, which featured a “Kick-off Week,” this year instead of the traditional dinner.

Among the memories was picking up dozens of helium-filled balloons for a launch planned at the Dunbar Center, one of the United Way’s member agencies. However, rain the day of the event prevented most of the children from attending, so Executive Director Kristin Bowman-Cross suggested taking the balloons to Jimmy Carey Stadium the next day for walk-a-thon being held at Weir High School.

Greco said they had just finished putting all the balloons around the stadium entrance when they realized a problem.

“Weir High was playing Oak Glen that night, and we just decorated the field with yellow and blue balloons,” Greco explained.

On a more serious note, he said leading this year’s campaign also has taught him where the true spirit of the Weirton United Way is; with its agencies, volunteers and the community itself which always shows its support.

On Friday, several businesses were recognized for having all of their employees contribute to the campaign.

“That speaks volumes about your leadership and the dedication of your employees,” Greco said.

The Weirton United Way will continue its campaign, and has one upcoming fundraising event planned; a Pre-Super Bowl party on Feb. 2 at the Knights of Columbus.

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)