The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 29, 2013

United Way of Ashtabula County recognizes top volunteers, donors

Star Beacon

ASHTABULA — The words “thank you” seemed inadequate, but United Way of Ashtabula County officials on Thursday nevertheless expressed their gratitude to volunteers and donors to the local campaign.

Held at the Elks Lakefront Lodge, the event showcased the efforts of large corporations and individuals alike as they have struggled to hit the $800,000 campaign goal. Executive Director Randy Jones said the campaign is $16,000 behind where it was last year this time; the 2012 goal was $793,000. The effort to hit the goal continues.

“We are struggling,” Jones said. “But that has not diminished anything that you have done ... it is a difficult time for our country, our community, and I think our campaign reflects that.”

Jones joked that, in order to hit the goal, those attending the breakfast should donate any loose change in their pockets as they departed.

Highlighting the long list of presentations was the Mike E. Kahanca Award for Distinguished Volunteerism, which was introduced last year. The Kahanca family received the award last year in honor of the late Kahanca’s more than 20 years of service as a United Way volunteer. This year’s recipient, Jim Moyer, followed Kahanca’s example and has served for more than two decades. He is a trustee and chairs the Community Investment Committee.

“This United Way and this entire community is better because of Jim’s service,” Jones said.

“You don’t volunteer for the recognition,” Moyer told the crowd after receiving the award. He said that, like all volunteers, he does it because “you believe you can make a difference.”

Every month, the United Way attempts to make a difference in the lives of more than 500 Ashtabula County preschoolers, who receive a free book in the mail. The public libraries of the county collaborated with United Way in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library pre-kindergarten reading program, and the Community Impact Award was presented to those libraries on Thursday.

United Way funds the program, which is designed to foster a love of reading among preschoolers. The program is provided regardless of family income. Jones said that 61 percent of low-income families do not have one children’s book in their home.

“There is a lot more reading being done by preschoolers, and that is a wonderful thing,” Jones said.

The strong employee campaigns and outstanding corporate leadership giving of FirstEnergy Corp. earned the company the President’s Award for Corporate Leadership.

Among the employee campaigns, that of Ashtabula Dental Associates earned the Live United Award for the “extra generosity” of all its employees. Alice Harden of the Salvation Army Service Center said the practice has created a “culture that values community involvement and support.”

The Top Ten Awards are given to employers based upon total giving by employees and per capita giving. Cristal Global took the former category, with $54,029 pledged by its employees. Apple Heating’s average employee gift of $264 earned that company the first spot on the per capita giving list.

Community Builder Awards went to Aqua Ohio, Ashtabula County Educational Service Center, Chromaflo Technologies, Conneaut Telephone Co., Cristal Global, CW Ohio, Henderson Memorial Library, Iten Industries, Kent State University, Pymatuning Valley Schools and Spring Team. The award recognizes employers whose campaigns had an increase of 10 percent or more over last year’s pledges.

Rob Schimmelpfennig received the Award for Campaign Leadership, and The Ashtabula Foundation was recognized for its years of faithful support.

Members of the Community Investment Committee were recognized for their volunteerism. The committee reviews the requests of each agency that receives United Way funding, makes on-site visits and determines if and how much funding will be provided. Geoffrey Klein, associate director of United Way, said more than 50 volunteers loaned their expertise to the committee.