The caring arms of the United Way will reach out even farther to strengthen the community during this year’s campaign, once again with the help of Lehigh University. Lehigh’s goal for the campaign, which runs March 8- 19, is to raise $100,000 toward regional initiatives.
“This year’s United Way campaign is focusing on five important areas to strengthen and improve the Lehigh Valley,” says Brad Drexler, vice president for University Relations who is co-chairing the Lehigh campaign with his wife, Ellen.
These impact areas, through which the United Way hopes to engage residents and other stakeholders in sustained collaborative efforts, include early childhood education with a focus on school readiness; strengthening the family unit; helping families to become more self-sufficient; keeping neighborhoods healthy; and helping older adults to live independently for as long as possible.
“All these areas are as relevant to the Bethlehem area as they are to entire valley,” Drexler says.
Following two February breakfast meetings with last year’s top supporters, Lehigh has raised $50,000, half way to the $100,000 goal.
“But in order to get the other half, we need more faculty and staff participation,” Drexler says.
Last year, only 25 percent of Lehigh’s faculty and staff contributed to the United Way.
“Given Lehigh’s reputation for community leadership and our people’s reputation for generosity, it would be great to increase our participation,” Drexler says.
Giving back to the community
This year the United Way and Lehigh share a particularly strong bond. For the first time, a Lehigh program—The S.T.A.R. (Students That Are Ready) Academies, directed by Henry Odi, executive director of academic outreach and special projects, and his wife, Curtissa—is being partially funded by United Way dollars. The S.T.A.R. program was designed to enrich, enhance, and track the academic performances of economically and academically disadvantaged at-risk students in middle and high schools from the Lehigh Valley.
To invite greater involvement in their efforts, the United Way-sponsored Day of Caring, which is held each fall, has expanded to include a spring date on March 11, so faculty and staff who were too busy to participate in September can volunteer their time to a local South Side community organization. Anne Noon Scaggs, administrative coordinator for community and state relations who oversees Lehigh’s involvement in the Day of Caring, is currently looking for volunteers for the spring Day of Caring.
Drexler, who has been active with the United Way for nearly 20 years, says he’s had the chance to see first-hand how important its work is for the Lehigh Valley. “The impact in communities and neighborhoods is tremendous and the support provided through United Way agencies for individuals and families is impressive,” he says.
Drexler says there are really two reasons people should get involved and support the United Way. “The first reason is personal — it’s simply a good thing for individuals to help people in our community who need support. And secondly, it’s important for Lehigh as an institution to continue to support the Lehigh Valley and particularly, South Side Bethlehem, to make sure this remains a great place for people to live and work and learn. The United Way provides the level of support to make that happen.”