Last week simultaneously was one of the most disheartening and one of the most uplifting for United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley Executive Director George Smoulder.
All-volunteer panels, comprised of community members, traveled the Upper Ohio Valley last week, listening to the needs of United Way agencies and learning how those agencies operate. Those panels will evaluate the needs of the agencies, then make their recommendations on how the money raised during the United Way's annual campaign should be distributed.
On Thursday, Smoulder said donors had given around $640,000, or about 83 percent of the $777,777 goal. That amount is around the same that had been raised at this time last year, he pointed out.
Smoulder said that while it is unsettling to hear how the agencies struggle and strain, it is comforting to know that the United Way can provide major financial relief and help provide services to so many around the area.
United Way volunteers were at WesBanco Arena on Jan. 25 campaigning during a Wheeling Nailers Game, where Smoulder and Campaign Chair Judy Riesbeck Wright dropped the ceremonial puck at center ice.
"We raised a few dollars," Smoulder said of the evening, "but more importantly, it helped us to better communicate our message about how our agencies are responding to the needs of the Ohio Valley."
That message was well-received by at least one Nailers fan, who took an opportunity to extend her thanks to a United Way volunteer that evening. According to Smoulder, a volunteer was explaining to a woman how the United Way assists many different agencies, one of which is Wheeling HealthRight. As a former HealthRight patient, the thankful woman simply asked the volunteer, "Can I give you a hug?" before the two embraced, Smoulder recalled.
Tickets for the 18th Annual Night at the Races, set for 6:30 p.m. March 15 at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, are set to go on sale soon.
While tickets for the event itself are not yet on sale, raffle tickets for a chance to win prizes during the evening are available and can be purchased by calling the United Way at 304-232-4625. Those prizes include a Hampton Inn of Wheeling getaway; a $500 Kroger gift certificate; two four-day passes to Jamboree In The Hills; a Pittsburgh sports gift basket; and a Good Mansion Wines gift certificate.