Strengthening a community through teamwork and partnerships

Strong partners build strong communities.

You’ve probably heard us say those words before. We say those words often. We craft those words into hashtags. We talk about and promote collaborative relationships always… and we really, truly believe those words.

We have always valued that concept and prioritized efforts to build great partnerships.

We have long since witnessed the benefits and the impactful potential, but nothing tests a good plan like a crisis.

Seeing your strategies produce fruitful results always feels good.

Watching your efforts and strategies unfold in meaningful ways is always wonderful.

Testing those priorities and strategies in the midst of a never before felt crisis… a time of unknowns and unprecedented challenges… that’s when you really find out what works and what was a lot of well-intentioned rhetoric.

As the unknown crisis of COVID-19 began to unpack itself on our community many weeks ago, we were immediately challenged to begin crafting contingency plans.

We began trying to contemplate a worst-case scenario that we truly could not predict or fully understand. Concepts like short term and long term began to blur together and lose both meaning and relativity.

It was overwhelming for us. It was overwhelming for our community. We knew that we had to take action. We knew that we had to take intentional steps to deliver the kind of response that our community would need and deserved. We knew this was unchartered territory and there was no playbook. We knew that missteps could waste resources and failure to step could contribute to catastrophe.

There was a series of moments where the analysis paralysis could have taken over. It did not. We took thoughtful moment and we did what any great Sunday afternoon coach would do; we ran the plays that we knew by heart. We went to the X’s and O’s that were etched on our subconscious.

Like a well-oiled team on the gridiron, we decided we would have to take a deep breath, rely on our trusted and proven teammates, and throw long. In what felt like it could be a Hail Mary, we fired out a plan and placed our trust in our extended team. That was exactly the right move.

For more than eight weeks now, we have kicked collaborative concepts in overdrive.

We have reached to an endless list of partners both private sector and nonprofit to engage conversations and cooperative steps to make immediate and necessary impact.

Those attempts would not have become successes if those relationships were not already in place.

We could not have been in that dropped back Hail Mary position looking down field to people we had never stepped with and trusted before.

That clutch moment was not the time to build new relationships or test new strategies. That backfield pressure, backed against our own goal line, play clock ticking down moment… that was the space where we had to know who our partners were, what our collective strengths were, and how we could step successfully together.

True, our relationships had to be stretched in new ways. Long-standing partnerships had to be recrafted for new purpose… but the core to do that rested in the strength of the relationships. We knew who we could throw to, we knew who could throw a reliable block for us, we knew who could help us move incrementally down a field in a high-pressure moment.

The crisis has not ended; this close call game is not yet over. We’ve had big moments on the scoreboard but we’re far from waving flags and declaring a final victory.

Where we are? I think we’re at halftime. As our communities begin to slowly re-open and cautiously step towards normalcy, I think this may be halftime. Making it to halftime and still standing strong is critical.

Halftime is an opportunity to pause, reflect, and create strategies that will take us through the next two quarters on the field. Halftime is where we look at some of the moments where we may have stumbled and make a clear plan to avoid that going forward. Halftime is when we consider some of the things that were really working and commit ourselves to continuing those things to get to the end victory we won’t want so much

We are so forever thankful for the extended team that we have on this field with us.

The corporate partners, the business associates, the vendors, the donors, the nonprofit partners, the community stakeholders… they have all wrapped around and woven through our United Way team. They have high-fived and cheered and helped us stay in this game.

Knowing who those partners were, knowing who we could count on when we looked downfield… that’s what made all the difference.

It wasn’t the strength of the individuals that made the impact, but rather the ability to move cohesively and comfortably.

Eleven amazing players lined between the hashmarks will not necessarily bring home a victory… amazing athletes who don’t work in tandem don’t usually find success on the field. Those who work as a team, who know their team well, who have practiced and stepped together and know how to move as a unit… that’s who crushes it at gametime!

We are not making impact as a United Way because of individuals who are amazing.

We are making impact as United Way because of amazing partnerships that were already in place, strong, vibrant, and reliable.

We are forever thankful for our extended team and always humbled to serve this community well.

We are all in this together and WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS TOGETHER… because we have a strong team that knows how to see this through.


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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