Jefferson United Way honors its volunteers during dinner

STEUBENVILLE – The new chairman for the 2015 United Way of Jefferson County campaign was all smiles as he walked to the microphone to be formally introduced Thursday night during the annual recognition dinner at the Hellenic Hall.

Cory Wingett’s smile got ever broader after representatives from the Hess Corp. joined him at the podium to present a $6,000 check for the next campaign.

“A great way to start a campaign,” announced United Way of Jefferson County Executive Director Beth Rupert-Warren.

Wingett urged the United Way volunteers to honor the 1931 inaugural United Way of Jefferson County campaign that raised $80,000 to support 10 agencies.

“With inflation, that $80,000 would be $1,191,756 in today’s economy. We need to remember and honor those people who worked hard in 1931,” noted Wingett.

Anthony Mougianis, who has served as a campaign chairman for two straight years, credited two women in the audience for getting him involved with the United Way.

“Dr. Laura Meeks of Eastern Gateway Community College and Suzanne Kresser, a former United Way of Jefferson County executive director, really pushed me to get involved. We accomplished great things by meeting our goal two years in a row. And that was a result of everyone working together,” cited Mougianis.

More than 100 volunteers who had worked to reach and pass the 2014 goal of $440,000 celebrated another successful campaign with cheers, applause, a joke from Rupert-Warren and a lot of applause.

“Tonight is a night for rejoicing and thanks to the community. Tonight is a night for celebrating,” said Rupert-Warren.

The evening, which was sponsored by the Wal-Mart Distribution Center and Tri-State Security, started with stories from two of the 19 agencies supported by the United Way of Jefferson County.

“The City Rescue Mission was founded in 1928 and my father managed the mission from 1938 until 1996 until the day he died. Approximately 85 percent of our funds come from our thrift store. The rest comes from donations and the United Way. On an average night 20 to 30 people live in our homeless shelter,” said Harry Kellermier City Rescue Mission executive director.

“But, over time, things have changed. We have seen a dramatic increase in the women and children who stay at the shelter. During the past year we had 14 kids at one time staying at the shelter. And, we have no one to back us up. When people come to the mission we can’t just put them out because the next step is the street. We are the last stop in Steubenville,” continued Kellermier.

“We have 30 beds at the mission but often have people sleeping on cots in the chapel or the dining room. And, this winter has been especially tough on the mission. But when times get tough it seems like someone shows up. I see a lot of people tonight doing angels’ work. The United Way has been a blessing to our community,” declared Kellermier.

Ann Wiley of the WEBA Outreach Food Pantry told the audience her agency was reorganized in February 2007 to serve 27 families.

“In February 2014 we served 185 families. We have had people arrive at our doors at 5 a.m. on the distribution day that starts at 10 a.m. We also serve 15 shut-ins including a client who lives in a camper trailer with a kerosene space heater and a garden hose supplying water,” shared Wiley.

Patricia Fletcher said the students of Jefferson County raised $31,000 for the 2014 campaign and announced the Indian Creek Local School District won the top two awards for the efforts by their students, teachers and staff.

Rupert-Warren extended a special thanks to Amy Colantoni for organizing the Zumbathon event last year to raise money for the campaign as well as Rich DeLuca for proposing a comedy night fundraiser.

“Another key component has always been the Jefferson Society under the leadership of Anita Jackson. She organized the Jazz in the Garden event that was hosted by Lisa and Derek Ferguson,” said Rupert-Warren.

Rupert-Warren concluded the evening with a song, a candlelight ceremony and a story.

“I was helping some friends move on Fourth Street Sunday afternoon when a car drove by and the driver waved to me. I waved back and kept working. The car came back and parked across the street and a man got out and asked me if I was the United Way lady. I told him yes and he handed me $20 and said it was from his mother. His mother was in the car so I talked to her and she told me the United Way had helped her years ago and she wanted to give something back. That $20 made a difference just like every $1 we receive makes a difference. It makes me proud to know I come from a community that cares,” stated Rupert-Warren.

“As one campaign ends we start another campaign. Time to start working,” added Rupert-Warren.

(Gossett can be contacted at dgossett@heraldstaronline.com)