Friday, May 4, 2012

An Agency Story

By Laurel Good
Associate Director
Girls, Inc.

Dreams can come true…..

In my 14 years at Girls Inc., I have had a lot of moments where I am proud to be working for an organization that empowers young women. Yesterday, I had another one of those moments.

For those of us that have been here (Girls Inc.) for a while, we have what we call “our generation” of girls. By that I mean, the girls that were here when you started working at Girls Inc. and were here until they reached their teen years and left our Girls Inc. “nest.” My proud moment was when I dropped four letters of recommendation in the mail for one of these girls to attend medical school. The quiet, soft spoken, shy girl that started coming to Girls Inc. when she was 9 is now going to medical school?? WOW! I remember the day when she sat in my office and said “Ms. Laurel, I want to be a pediatrician.”

Dreams can come true.

Like a puzzle, our lives are made up of many “pieces.” For this young lady, there were many pieces that made up her “puzzle.” Girls Inc. was just one piece; United Way was another. It was just a couple of years ago, that her mom called us to help her with her mortgage. Like a lot of people, they were struggling to make ends meet; this could have ultimately affected this young lady’s college dream. All it took was one phone call the United Way. The community rallied together to help this family in their time of need. Thank you United Way and the community, for helping us inspire all girls to be strong, smart and bold! We will be proud to one day call our Girls Inc. Alum “Doctor.”

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Why Do I Volunteer

by Rich Reichenbaugh
United Way of Washington County Board Member

My parents raised me the golden rule of, 'Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you'. They also taught me to share my blessing with others in need. I have been blessed in many ways: my faith, my family, my friends and my career.

There are those who have not been as fortunate and I have always believed that if I used my passion to select a few goals, I can make a difference in a few lives.

Several years ago, a movie called Pay It Forward was released. This movie centered on a youth choosing a school project in which he would do a favor for three people, in the hopes that they would each do favors for three other people and so on. Pay it forward, not a bad concept!

I am involved with United Way because they reach out to dozens of non-profit organizations that serve thousands of people in our own community. And even though this does not meet all of the need, I volunteer because I see the need and have some ability to work with others to provide change.

Do unto others. I have had down times in my life, as well and there were people and organizations who reached out to help me. They took the time to share and care. I am proud to say that they made a significant impact on me and I hope that I will be able to repay it someone else.

Pay it forward. I have learned that it is better to be involved in only a couple of projects/issues/organizations and place more energy and passion it my efforts than to become involved in a dozen other groups. I became too spread out and did not serve any of them the way they deserved. Volunteering is not about doing what someone tells you to do or what you think is right; it is about using your passion to impact the cause. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Not another cliché; just common sense.

Volunteer to help someone you don’t know. It’s a great way to make new friends, and I promise two things: you will feel better about yourself and the community will know that you care.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


by Karen Sigler-Goldstein
Finance Director

The other day, I was helping my 4th grade daughter, Madeline, with her spelling homework. She had to use a word she didn’t know in a sentence, so we quickly went to my phone to look up the definition using Google. This made me think of my childhood when I had to look up a word, or anything for that matter, in the Encyclopedia Britannica (which I heard they have now stop printing). I started to reminisce with my children on how much technology has changed since I was Madeline (10) and my son, Nathaniel’s (8) age.

At the same time, my son was trying to get through his homework so he could watch Phineas and Ferb, a cartoon on The Disney Channel. I explained to him that when I was little, cartoons were shown one day a week-on, EARLY Saturday morning. I had to make sure I was up to watch them! I reminded Madeline how much she loves to watch “Switched at Birth” on ABC Family, but since we can never remember when it’s one (and I like to preview it), we have to use our DVR. I told her that I would have to race home to watch my favorite TV show because we didn’t have a VCR let alone a DVR! It was especially important to be ‘front and center’ during the holidays, which were the only time of year to see some of your favorites, (like “A Year Without a Santa Claus”, which was my favorite)!

Nathaniel recently wanted to read a book in the “Humphrey” series. I easily downloaded it on my Kindle for him, but couldn’t help remembering when I had to go to the library, look in the card file to find the Dewey Decimal number, and go down the aisles to look for books! I can only imagine how easy research projects will be for my children, however I spent hours at the library researching my topics using books and magazines (which often the librarian would have to retrieve from a storage room) and recording the information on note cards to use later when I hand-write or type (using a typewriter) my paper.

All reminiscing aside, I love technology, especially when it comes to my job! I can’t imagine how United Way predecessors handled being Finance Director without a computer. Now, when a donor, vendor, or other United Way calls with a question, I can quickly and easily find any information using Quickbooks or Andar, our accounting and donor software. Back in the day, United Way finance directors would have to comb through mounds of ledgers, paper etc. It sounds exhausting!

I could go on and on about the technological differences between then and now, especially when it comes to lack of car and crib safety back in the day. But I will start to sound like my parents (“When I was young I had to walk to school in the snow uphill”), so I will stop. And as for my children, I’m sure I do sound like my parents to them…. BUT their time is coming. I can hear them now telling their children… “When I was your age, my parents actually had to DRIVE a car.”

Friday, March 23, 2012

Working Together: The Power of Collaborations

Submitted by: Jenny Fleming, Community Impact Director

Here is a recent Herald-Mail editorial we submitted to keep the Strategic Community Impact Plan (SCIP) process in the forefront of the minds of those in our community and to report on progress that is being made towards the SCIP goals.

We are excited to share a productive conversation that has been taking place amongst many community partners around the topic of hunger. This Food Program Collaborative has been discussing issues, such as distribution of available resources, programs and eligibility, nutrition and gaps that need to be filled moving forward.

In tough times, families have to make crucial decisions because of their limited budgets. Do I pay the light bill or put food on the table? Can I buy fresh fruit and vegetables for my family or is it cheaper to go to a fast food restaurant? To help alleviate these constraints, the Collaborative is engaging in discussions to find solutions. They are doing the process of asset mapping: seeing what exists and where and then determining what is lacking for those in need.

Fortunately, the Free and Reduced Price Meals (FARM) provided through Washington County Public Schools can help children during the school year. Did you know that almost half of Washington County students in elementary, middle and high schools are eligible to be part of this program? In fact, it is over fifty-percent when solely looking at the number of elementary school students. This surely indicates the propensity of poverty in Washington County.

While this Collaborative will be discussing several facets of hunger, such as senior citizen food and nutrition and a more efficient process for distribution of all food, it is currently focusing on summer food for youth and enrichment programs to help diminish learning loss. Activities to foster learning while school is out of session over the summer months are crucial to the overall academic success of our youth. This focus is touching on SCIP Goal #2: To help reduce learning loss, within three years, school-age children will have access to extended school year, summer and weekend learning opportunities, regardless of socio-economic situation and SCIP Goal #7: All students will have access to social and emotional supports and physical and mental health services, with focus on a third strategy point – develop partnerships to offer nutrition programs when school is out of session.

Once we take an inventory as to what is happening or needed in these areas, we will report on plans and progress. For now, we wanted to emphasize the importance of collaborations and discussions of this type that are taking place.

Sure, moving the needle on our community’s pressing issues is essential for growth and prosperity; however, one main by-product of the SCIP process is to get the community mobilized and working together towards common goals. There are passionate people in this community who care about our quality of life. We need to harness this enthusiasm and expertise in an organized manner by breaking down silos, avoid duplication of efforts and build efficient services and programs. Focusing on quality is essential too. It’s about transforming good intentions into effective tactics. We need to aspire for something great and produce results.

We’d like to thank Washington County Public Schools, Meritus Health, non-profits, the faith community, citizens and businesses that make up the fifty-person Food Program Collaborative. It is an effort to be replicated and one that our community deserves.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Invisible Children Effect on Local Non-Profits

By Addie Nardi
Director of Resource Development

Over the past week, I have been watching the push from the California-based non-profit Invisible Children with abject fascination. The rapid rise of their Kony 2012 campaign and subsequent backlash has been a global example of the life of a lot of local non-profits. I admit, I was moved by their Kony 2012 video on YouTube, but I haven’t been studying it with the mindset of getting Kony 2012 posters to put all over Greencastle. It has definitely been more of a professional interest.

Have you watched the video? In short, it is a push to stop Ugandan war lord Joseph Kony, who uses children as sex slaves and fighters in his war against the Ugandan government.

It is a half hour long. Hundreds of thousands of people have watched this video… for a half hour. I’ve never made a Power Point over 10 minutes. I personally watched it on my Nook after putting my daughter to bed one night last week. I thought I’d only watch a few minutes of it and then go downstairs to spend time with my husband. I don’t typically have the attention span to watch a half hour of anything let alone a documentary.

I didn’t blink.

This documentary isn’t Sarah McLachlan singing a sad song while you’re looking at abused animals (which, by the way, I’m not allowed to watch anymore). It doesn’t appeal to emotions, as much as it does logic. Sure, when Jacob cried over his deceased brother, I got teary-eyed, but this group took hard facts and mixed in incredible graphics to make black and white points.

Non-profit, marketing and Facebook gurus have been saying for years what this push is proving… that you can’t do anything to move any needle on any issue without social media.

We are just, in Washington County, utilizing social media for its intended ‘grown up’ purposes (other than keeping up with friends). We have county commissioners who are updating Twitter and posting videos to Facebook. We have companies who are blogging (As well as a select number of non-profits!). But we still have a long way to go! United Way’s Facebook page sits at 444 likes, my goal two years ago was to get to 500 (so like us already, puh-lease!) and all I know about Twitter is that I am far too long-winded. But we’re getting there.

The fact is, we have to get there and the Kony 2012 project proves why. As county non-profits, we are faced with an aging donor demographic and no solid plan to bring in younger supporters. Why? Because we haven’t figured out how to engage generations who aren’t check-writers; or are commuters with busy social lives in another area; or are parents with kids doing a thousand different activities at a thousand different places. The call to action from Invisible Children was simply this: watch the video and tell your friends about it, and it has grown by leaps and bounds since then.

There is another interesting facet to this entire movement, and that is the backlash that it is receiving. I am ‘cool’ enough to have some teenage friends on Facebook. That sounded a lot weirder than I meant, the bulk of my teenage Facebook friends are kids who have come through Youth United Way (our high school initiative). The rest are probably related to me in some way, shape or form. It was the beginning of last week when I started seeing these kids pause in posting pictures of themselves and talking about typical teenage problems (which require an astonishing amount of caffeine to solve), to post about how this ‘Kony 2012’ video had to be watched and action had to be taken.

And just as quickly, these same kids were questioning the legitimacy of this organization. I have to admit, I was proud of their critical thinking. And wanting to know if it was true and if this organization was a scam, I immediately went to Guide Star to look up their 990. Their fundraising rate is like, 12.5% and their top three salaries are listed at around $85,000. They are based out of San Diego, so I can imagine that is a very reasonable salary.

On a much more local level, we constantly face similar backlash, as do our partner agencies. We are constantly being questioned about what we do with donor dollars, including, but not limited to, the programs we fund, the fanciness of our office, the programs that we DON’T fund and finally, the audacity that any one of us would dare to draw a salary.

I understand that we are constantly going to be held accountable for the sins of the ghosts of non-profits past. And I encourage the rhetoric. But this is what I told my inquisitive YUW kids, and what I would encourage you to do before you invest your hard earned dollars or precious time into a non-profit:

1. Educate yourself on where your non-profit is spending their money. However,
realize that just because you don’t agree, doesn’t make it wrong.

2. Make sure that your non-profit is transparent. If you had a question about
anything going on at United Way, all you would have to do is call. There
are only four of us who work here, one of us will know the answer!

3. Every non-profit that holds a 501C3 status is responsible for filing a Form-
990 with the IRS, but I would also look for a non-profit who had an audit
of some sort done by a professional accounting firm. Even though our
Finance Director is a Certified Public Accountant, we have a professional
audit done every year, and the auditing form fills out our Form-990.

4. You have every right to want to invest in a non-profit who is run on a
completely volunteer staff. However, very few of those exist. Probably
because there weren’t enough hours in the day to volunteer and make a go of
their cause. Also, there are very few of us who can afford to follow our
calling to serve for free. I have a mortgage and I have to buy diapers. So
go easy on me, or any other poor schlep who is just trying to make a
difference in their corner of the world. Believe me, if it weren’t for my
husband, I’d be on a Top Ramen diet.

In conclusion, I hope that our other county non-profits are paying attention to Invisible Children and Kony 2012. The amount I have learned in just one week (the good and the bad) is already making me a better United Way employee. I am anxiously waiting to see how the rest of it plays out.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Give a Man a Fish…..

By Dave Jordan
Executive Director
Washington County Community Action Council

There is an old adage, proverb, saying, famous quote or infamous quote – ”Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.”

In today’s world it is more and more difficult to live by those words. Are you hungry? Do you know people who are hungry? How about kids who don’t get enough to eat or suffer from learning loss due in part to the effects of not having good, nutritious food to eat? Most people would think having basic food would not be an issue in today’s society and particularly in our own community. The reality is this very thing happens every day right here in our own Washington County. The issue of lack of nutritious food and the effects of learning loss in our youth has almost become the norm.

Currently there are over 20 known food pantries in Washington County. At Washington County Community Action Council, Inc. (CAC) alone the agency has provided over 1,000 bags of groceries to households in need since July 1 of 2011. In addition statistics show there are over 10,000 Washington County school students eligible for the FARM (Free and Reduced Meal) Program. FARM doesn’t mean these students have something to do with farming but means they qualify for the federally subsidized Free And Reduced Meals Program.

People are hungry in Washington County and in need of food. The solution to the issue is extremely convoluted. There are a number of organizations who provide meals on a regular basis at soup kitchens; pantries are helping to fill gaps; and the FARM Program is getting food into the hands (or literally stomachs) of children in the public school system. The United Way of Washington County and the Community Foundation of Washington County identified food and nutrition and learning loss as activities that must be addressed in our community as a result of the Strategic Community Impact Plan or SCIP.

In addition to the efforts of these two organizations and the countless hours and people who worked on SCIP and came to these conclusions, other organizations are starting to look at the problem as well.

United Way and some others in the community are now working to address the hunger issue in our community. Recently a work group came together to do something and do it in a structured manner. This work group has put together a larger “taskforce” to do community mapping of who is doing what and where they are doing it. This larger group will next look at a Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats (SWOT) analysis to determine how these problems can be addressed.

Did you know that of the 10,000 plus children in the public educational system that qualify for the FARM program many may not eat or eat nutritious meals or even have access to sufficient quantities of food when school is not in session? Did you know CAC has a summer food program that can and does provide breakfast and lunch to children who participate at 11 summer recreation sites in the greater Hagerstown area during the summer? Did you know that this program only reaches about 800 of those 10,000 plus children who are eligible for FARM? Did you know that even with this program there is approximately a 2 week period between the end of the school year and the start of the summer camps when these children may not have sufficient food to eat? Did you know that this pattern repeats itself again at the end of the camp programs and before school starts in the fall? Why does this happen? Have you heard the saying “Food that’s in when school is out”? This refers to the summer food program and all of these meals are prepared by the Board of Education and the Board does not work during those 2 periods of time; after school ends in the spring and before school starts in the fall.

The Taskforce is seeking ways to end this situation in our county by facilitating getting food to children. This may be accomplished by expanding recreational programs to entice children to come to feeding sites, expansion of Backpack programs that provide food for children to take home for weekend when food at home maybe limited, or creating a means to have food prepared for distribution during those times when food is not being prepared at the Board of Education.

This is not an insurmountable task but one that will take time, effort and money. Factors that play into this include motivating parents, developing partnerships and simply saying we need to do this for the good of our future generations. Getting healthy food to our youth tied to quality summer programs will have a number of positive effects, the least of which are, good nutritious meals means improved ability to learn.

Last but not least, it has been determined that this group will continue to work on food related issues in our community such as coordination among the pantries and soup kitchens, community gardening, senior feeding programs and the relationship of learning loss, obesity and healthy eating.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why You'll LOVE Studio Cycling!

By Dave Ruff
Ruff Fitness Training Center and Cycle United

Cycle United is local gyms, businesses and individuals coming together to ride indoor bikes to benefit Washington County United Way. Indoor Cycling, sometimes called Studio Cycling, Group Cycle or Spinning is biking classes taught inside a gym or studio. A certified instructor leads the class providing motivation, direction and safety. The instructor will guide participants through flat riding, hills and faster paced tempo riding and sprints - the music corresponds to the "terrain" and is a powerful motivator. During your "ride" the rhythms of the music will help find the proper pedaling stroke as you climb, sprint or cruise along.

There are tremendous benefits to indoor cycling - each student rides at their own level and pace. Beginners are side-by-side with advanced riders and no one knows the difference - each rider controls their own resistance and cadence (how fast they pedal). Regardless of your fitness level indoor cycling is a time efficient way to get a great workout. Typically women burn 400 - 600 calories and men 500 - 700 calories in a 45-minute class! The best part it's never cold, windy or rainy and you don't need to worry about traffic, unlike outdoor cycling. Additionally indoor cycling is very low impact which makes it appropriate for anyone with joint problems.

Learning to ride is simple and fun. With proper instruction you'll begin reaping the benefits of cycling from the moment you enter class. You'll get top level instruction - many of the training techniques used in Studio Cycling are the same ones being used by world class cyclists and ultra endurance athletes. The beauty of Studio Cycling is that everyone is able to work at their own ability level, and will never be left behind by the group. Imagine a class full of eager participants, each doing their very best, and working towards a common goal! Your instructor will transform an ordinary exercise session into an adventure that will make you forget that your in the gym!

Why not give it a try? Join the top instructors in the area, representing the local gyms that offer Studio Cycling at the 2nd Annual Cycle United event on February 11th. You'll get a great workout, have a blast and support your local United Way, all in one hour!!!

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