Every two years, United Way of Washington County invites local charities to apply for Community Impact grants, which provide much needed funding for the programs and services available for Washington County residents in need. The Community Impact panels are comprised of local citizens who volunteer their time to perform this valuable community service. Each panel – this year there are eight of them – is assigned six applications to review.

The review includes a site visit by the panelists, a full financial assessment and interviews with the agency’s management team, volunteers and service recipients. At the end of each day, the panelists return to United Way’s office to deliberate on the strengths and weaknesses of each funding request before coming to a decision on funding recommendations. Final approval for funding is the responsibility of United Way’s board of directors.

Among the Southpointe companies providing panel volunteers are WesBanco, Range Resources, Columbia Gas, Norton Rose Fulbright and Community Bank.

The downturn in the Marcellus Shale industry has had a negative impact on United Way’s Annual Campaign, which affects the amount of funding available. Office closings, layoffs and relocations have taken a toll on the employees and companies that have been strong United Way supporters.

As a result, funding decisions for 2017-19 will be especially difficult. Requests for funding total $702,817, far more than the available funds raised during United Way’s Annual Campaign. Funding during our last cycle of Community Impact grants, 2015-17, totaled $551,000. Unfortunately, many funding requests will be reduced or turned down outright, resulting in decreased services for local charities.

The good news is that several Southpointe companies have made extra efforts to increase contributions. Mylan has extended its campaign and employees are conducting special events to add to their total. Range Resources and Bowles Rice are conducting campaigns during March and are making special efforts to increase pledges over the previous year. Columbia Gas of PA employees conducted its most successful campaign to date in the fall, thanks to dedicated campaign volunteers and the generosity of employees.

With the down turn in our economy and the proposed cuts in the federal budget, providing services is more important than ever. Every United Way contribution is essential to ensure that vital community services continue to exist.

Everyone in our community, in some way, is touched by United Way supported programs or services.

If you or your company have not yet made a United Way contribution, please do so. The City Mission, Domestic Violence Services, Food Bank, Literacy Council, Catholic Charities, America Red Cross and CASA for Kids are just a few of the local charities depending on funding by United Way Community Impact grants.

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