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United Way introduces new campaign chairperson

Each year our United Way invites a community leader to serve as our campaign chairperson.

It is an annual selection where we seek to find a “face of the campaign”… someone who has been our champion and advocate.

Someone who truly understands what we do and the importance of our work.

Simultaneously we must find a person who is willing to give pf their most precious commodity to lift and propel our campaign; someone who will give their time to our work.

To be honest, as we prepared for this campaign season, we unsure that we would name a chairperson for this season.

A bit of a quandary for us, as there has perhaps never been a more important, a more critical campaign. We stand at a crossroads as we continue to provide response and recovery efforts to our COVID impacted community but also step strongly towards an energy of reimagining and rebuilding. We knew we needed a strong chair, but recognized the challenges that we faced. Our strongest advocates and supporters are typically industry leaders with strong community involvement. In this challenging time we see most people dealing with “full plate syndrome”; we see industry leaders working in unusual circumstances and carrying extra duties. We had a candidate in mind; we had been discussing for several months that this was a strong and natural choice.

Yet as the time to extend the invitation drew near, I was nervous. It was like asking a date to the homecoming dance and really, really wanting a yes, but feeling strongly that they might say no.

The moment to invite for me was a little less joyous than I might have been in another time and space, as I was bracing myself for “… you know I would love to, but not THIS YEAR.” “Not THIS YEAR” has in too many ways become a reoccurring mantra. I didn’t want to be disappointed. I actually put it off longer that I had planned because not asking meant that I had not been told no.

When I couldn’t avoid the anxious butterflies anymore, I made my move. I invited our candidate to lunch and I popped the big question. I knew how very important this was to our organization THIS YEAR. I knew we needed a strong voice and an enthusiastic and adamant supporter. I also knew that their bandwidth might already be stretched. I asked… they paused. They countered with a few questions. Then they decided they needed some time to think. So the nervous energy remained with me for a few more days as I waivered between staying hopeful and considering that THIS YEAR maybe we just would forgo the Campaign Chairperson position.

Then the answer came, and with it came a renewal of hope and confidence. A reminder that our supporters have made us strong and that they will continue to walk with us through a time of unknown challenges.

Our invited candidate started her acceptance response with “I’m your girl” — and that she is! I am excited to share with you some thoughts from our 20-21 United Way Campaign Chairperson, Robin Ollis Stemple. We have been blessed by her support for many years and we are thankful for her leadership and enthusiasm for THIS YEAR’s campaign.

“I have been a long time supporter of the United Way. Giving back in our community is a personal value we’ve tried to instill in our children.  We’ve tried to walk the talk by sharing our resources where they can be used  for causes we believe in.  The United Way takes the guesswork out of knowing where our time and dollars will have the greatest impact with well-managed organizations.

“Every single organization in our community was impacted by COVID this year.  Besides serving a brand new group of people whose income was impacted or who lost their job altogether, United Way agencies have taken on new challenges like providing childcare for essential workers, supplying safety items for anyone who needs them, and finding new ways to feed children whose source of nutrition was lost when schools were closed. 

“Most non-profits have not been able to conduct their normal fundraising activities due to social distancing so meeting their normal budget is in question and now community needs have grown.  When I learned about how the needs in the community have escalated in the past six months, I felt an obligation to do more.

“As people have stayed at home there have been dramatic increases in incidences of domestic violence, drug overdoses, and food shortages.

“More families are trying to juggle work with the ever-changing school-at-home landscape, and children who depended on schools and churches to provide at least one meal a day, have done without.

“The emotional toll of managing the sick and remaining confined has created its own set of problems. All of these are issues that our local United Way and its partner agencies address and they are stretched very thin. United Way and it’s agencies are filling in many of the gaps. As employers, families and community organizations recover from COVID losses, it is critical that we share with those who are still getting back on their feet.”

We are thrilled to have Robin as our Campaign Chairwoman this year. We welcome her leadership and dedication to our work!

Please consider joining Robin in her commitment to strengthening our work in the community at this very critical time. Learn how you can get involved by visiting uwamov.com.

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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