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Day of Caring Kicks Off 2014 United Way Campaign - The Business Journal

The United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley announced a $2.6 million goal this morning for its 2014 campaign, a target the agency is already a quarter of the way toward reaching.

This year’s pacesetter campaign and events such as the pre-party prior to Rod Stewart’s concert last month and the April fundraiser featuring golfers Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam raised $711,000 toward the goal, the United Way chapter’s president, Bob Hannon, reported. “There’s no place that steps up like the Mahoning Valley,” he said.

Hannon announced the goal and the early results this morning at a breakfast for the 17th annual Day of Caring, which kicks off the annual fundraising campaign.

This year, nearly 600 volunteers representing 52 businesses and organizations are participating in community projects for the event. About half will clean up three neighborhoods on the North Side in a partnership between the United Way chapter, Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. and Green Youngstown and the other half will complete projects at 21 non-profit agencies funded by the United Way.

At his first Day of Caring six years ago, 275 volunteers participated, Hannon recalled. “This is amazing,” he remarked.

This year’s campaign goal is $100,000 higher than the goal reached the past three years. “This year, with the economic climate getting better and with Ed and Chris Muransky chairing the campaign, it was time to extend the goal,” Hannon said. Reaching the goal will be challenging “but we think we have a good opportunity to accomplish that but more importantly the need is there,” he said.

“Even though things are getting better there are still a lot of people that need food, shelter, clothing, so we will continue to fund emergency services,” he added. Also, the agency itself runs programs such as the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which aims to provide books for children through age 5, and the pilot program mentoring young women.

The Muranskys see the goal as too modest.

“We had a big argument with Bob Hannon that he only raised [the goal] by $100,000 and that we live in a great valley,” Ed Muransky, president and CEO of the Muransky Companies, said. It’s the job of him and his wife “to make sure that goal gets met and exceeded,” he continued. “I assure you with the heartbeat of this valley,” the volunteers at the event, participants in the workplace and campaign and corporate givers, “we’re going to beat it,” he said.

Muransky as well as other speakers throughout the kickoff breakfast reflected on the generous spirit of the Mahoning Valley, as evidenced by the volunteers who turned out this morning.

“It’s inspiring to see all of you,” YSU President Jim Tressel said. “You have no idea of the impact you’re making, the confidence you’re giving someone when you go over, whatever it is, and they see you working in an area that is important to them. It just gives them a little bit of faith, a little bit of hope, a little bit of confidence, and it’s exciting to me.”

The volunteers at the kickoff event were enthusiastic as they prepared to embark on their projects.

Preparing to head to Potential Development to paint in its classrooms and gym, Tim Shaffer, vice president and director of commercial lending and private client services at Farmers National Bank, Canfield, said the bank is committed to community outreach. “This absolutely fits what we would like to do as an organization, and that’s support our community and volunteer our time and just be good corporate citizens,” he remarked.

Allison Oltmann, marketing director for Compco Industries in Columbiana, also characterized community involvement as a cornerstone of her company. She was among the half of volunteers who were volunteering on the North Side cleanup. “We believe in helping others and striving to help Youngstown become more beautiful, and the community as a whole,” she said.

“We’ve got a deep tradition of support here in the community and it means a lot to all of our employees,” said Stephen Notar Donato, the new plant manager at General Motors Corp.’s Lordstown Complex. “This is home for them and it’s important for us to support where their home is and where their activities are and where their interests are, not only for the 4,500 people in our plant but the rest of the community as part of who we are.”

“There’s a lot of need in Youngstown,” said Angelique McKowan, project coordinator with VEC Inc. in Girard, who, like Oltmann and Notar Donato, was taking part in the North Side project. The people who live in those neighborhoods “need to be able to look out their window or walk out their door and be encouraged when they leave the house every morning,” she said. “We’re going to clean up the neighborhoods and make everything look nice for the people who live there.”

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