Inspired by the recovery effort of the Spanish Flu of 1918-19 to the current pandemic sweeping through our area for the third peak of its infection, the United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties has been here through it all.

Heading into this “new normal” beginning earlier this year in March, the United Way prepared for one of the biggest areas of concern facing our community: senior isolation. This isolation encompassed not just older adults, but also at-risk residents who were already confined to their homes before government directives were in effect. Food banks all over Lackawanna and Wayne Counties rose up and prepared for a significant upsurge of need while the United Way used its storied history of volunteerism to try and bridge the gap between isolated members of our community and well-stocked food pantries to deliver much needed sustenance to its most vulnerable residents.

However, there were a couple bumps in the road. With conditions as unique as they were, the typical volunteer database was stretched very thin due to stay-at-home orders and the “essential workers only” mandate. United Way swiftly pivoted to replenish their volunteers with a new wave of what they called the COVID-19 Volunteer Response Team, or CVRT. Like always, our community answered that call and filled the roster of the CVRT. These courageous volunteers delivered over 180 sets of groceries to residents all over the Valley.

As winter slowly approaches and the temperature steadily drops, United Way braces for yet another absolute certainty. CDC guidelines regarding evictions are set to be lifted on Dec. 31 placing some of our neighbors at risk of losing their homes in not only the most dangerous of climates but also one of the toughest economic crises in the modern era.

And in the midst of this turmoil, United Way is attempting to raise $3.2 million dollars during what is considered to be one of the most important fundraising efforts to date.

Unfortunately the pandemic has created a unique and unenviable “double edged sword” for our United Way and for many of our funded agencies. Requests for help have dramatically increased while available financial resources are on the decline. Many of our contributors are not in a position to help this year; still others are seeking help themselves. We have received word from a number of our long-time company contributors that corporate contributions will be greatly reduced and in some cases eliminated altogether this year due to reduced company revenues. Adding to this is an anticipated “shifting” of our dollars from what would normally be agency program allocations to providing additional emergency assistance.

It’s no surprise that the United Way is celebrating their 100th year here in NEPA. With an ear to the ground and a community that truly cares for one another, success has been inevitable. As our staff digs through 100 years of newspaper clippings, posters, photographs, programs and more, so many partner agencies have been with us every step of the way working together with the community that has always and faithfully supported our programs.

An astounding 98 cents of every dollar raised stays right here in Lackawanna and Wayne Counties.

Back in the 1920s, the prevalent theme that emerged from all advertisements, newspaper columns and posters was “Scranton, The City with a Big Heart.” We couldn’t agree more and look forward to starting another 100 years right here in the Valley thanks to generous contributors like you.

Barry Snyder serves as the director of community outreach at the United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties. Snyder started with the United Way in February of 2020 and resides in Clarks Summit with his wife, Michelle, and two dogs, Denver and Newman.

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