What does ‘award winning’ look like?

Awards are great things! They are great because they give an organization external recognition for the hard work and effort that the team is doing day in and out. An award says that your peers are cognizant of the work you are doing and they are endorsing your efforts. Award presentations are surrounded with warm feelings of pride and gratification. They are great moments of happiness and celebration with your team.

So what happens the day after? Do you continue basking in the spotlight? Do you have a sense of relief that your organization was “finally” recognized? Do you find a renewed sense of motivation to shine even brighter? I’m sure that everyone’s reaction is different and that the organizational response is truly unique.

This past week we had the honor of being recognized as the Nonprofit of the Year by the Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce. Our United Way team was on hand for the annual dinner. We were already enjoying a fun evening with so many of our community partners and friends.

As the awards presentation began, it was of course humbling to be shortlisted with so many worthy organizations representing our community. To be honest, the nomination it itself was a notable recognition that made us all quite proud.

When we were announced as the winner, we were delighted and headed to the front to receive our award. That’s the moment when it begins to sink in how just how special that recognition was.

That room was packed with so many supporters: donors, advocates, cheerleaders, workplace campaign leaders, volunteers, funded partners, mentors and most of all friends of our organization. They were clapping and smiling and were so genuinely happy for us.

That’s the moment when the award can seem bigger than life, because it didn’t feel as if it was really about us. It felt like it was an award we were simply accepting on behalf of a community — OUR COMMUNITY!

We strive every day to make a difference, to do what matters, to truly make an impact, to see real and lasting change in our community. The amazing part? We see it! We feel it! We know it is happening! Sometimes it comes in baby steps that are just barely recognizable, sometimes it comes in monumental moments that bring us all to our knees.

Either way, it is there, it is palpable and it is constant. So while the plaque may be displayed proudly in our office, that award is symbol of success for our entire community. It means our work is not only noticed, but it is making a difference. Live United is not just a tag line or marketing shtick, it is a battle cry! Living united, choosing to be a difference maker, embracing your true inner hero to effect change — that’s real and it is making real impact in the mid-Ohio Valley. We are so proud when others champion our UNITED WAY FIRST mantra. We are both honored and humbled to lead the charge. Our team feels blessed to walk in the doors each morning and embrace the opportunities of the day!

What did the day after the awards announcement look like for us? While we were thrilled to win, I am not sure it was even a piece of our conversations the next morning. The day was filled with its usual challenges and more importantly its usual victories; a young man living out is recovery program will be connected to resources for workforce re-entry… a man has been staying in a local emergency shelter will be reconnected with family in another area and assisted with transportation services to get back to a support system, all because we have a network of advocates and partners that extend beyond our city walls… a senior veteran who was concerned about the upcoming holiday alone will now have a delivered meal and a few moments of companionship courtesy of a local agency… a single father who joyously, but unexpectedly received custody of his children last week has been connected to a local program who will provide some much needed Christmas assistance for her young children… the list goes on and on.

It wasn’t a unique week, it was actually quite normal. That was just us doing what we do. So while the plaque is beautiful and the award recognition was truly delightful, the real reward is being able to serve this community well every single day. We are blessed! We are your United Way.

Stacy DeCicco is executive director of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley, located at 935 Market St., Parkersburg.


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