United Way funding drops as businesses leave

Director seeks support from Upshur Co.

BUCKHANNON — The United Way of Gilmer, Upshur and Lewis counties could use your change to change the lives of people in the tri-county area.

The umbrella organization, which supports approximately 20 nonprofits, is nearing the cut-off date for its 2017-2018 fundraising campaign — March 30 — and it may come up short, according to executive director Becky Sias.

Sias, who has served in her role part time for about 15 years, told the Buckhannon Rotary Club Tuesday that the shortage of funding hasn’t happened in a decade.

“Our 2017-2018 campaign will end on March 30,” Sias said. “At this time, we only have about 78 percent of our $75,000 goal. This is the first time in 10 years that we have not been able to meet our goal.”

What’s happened, Sias said, is several oil and natural gas companies that previously supported the agency have left the area.

“What happened in Lewis County is there were a lot of oil and gas companies that were very instrumental and gave us a lot of money,” Sias said, adding that one corporation typically donated about $30,000. That entity migrating “really put a hurt on us this year.”

But Sias says she’s hard at work bringing new business donors on board.

“We are hoping we can start picking up some other businesses,” Sias said. “That’s another reason I’m here. I wanted to let you all know that we really need a lot of support from Upshur County. We really don’t get a lot, and that could be some of my fault, too. I don’t have a presence over here like I do in Lewis County, and that’s one thing I’m going to start working on more.”

Part of the message Sias wants to deliver is that United Way is still a force to be reckoned with.

“We want to let everyone know that United Way is still strong, and it is still supporting a lot of these agencies,” Sias said. “A lot of people ask me why you should give to United Way, and the best thing is that all the money we raise, it stays in our community. It’s only like 1 percent that goes to United Way nationally, so it’s a big help.”

Sias says local control means the umbrella agency has the capacity to allocate money where it’s most needed.

“We have a diverse group of agencies, so it’s nice to be able to allocate it where it is needed the most,” Sias said, adding that contributions to the organization are tax-deductible when itemized.

The United Way supports nonprofit 501(c)3 nonprofits that combat addiction, address poverty, facilitate youth recreational opportunities, promote strong families and improve the quality of life for seniors and individuals with disabilities.

Nine United Way agencies operate solely out of Upshur County, including the Buckhannon River Habitat for Humanity, Central W.Va. Pregnancy Center, Literacy Volunteers of Upshur County, the Opportunity House, Upshur County Family Resource Network, Mountain CAP Child Advocacy Center, Stockert Youth Center and Upshur County Special Olympics.

Sias is considering new ways to bring in money during the United Way’s 2018-2019 campaign, including a possible chicken wing-eating competition in partnership with the Buckhannon Buffalo Wild Wings.

“Harrison County [United Way] just raised $140,000 having a wing-eating contest,” Sias said.

The United Way will also continue to hold its annual elimination dinner at Stonewall Resort, which took place this year on Friday, March 2 and raked in approximately $14,000, Sias said.

For more detailed information about United Way, visit www.unitedway.org.


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