Legacy brand. Those words come to mind when one mentions the United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties.
And it’s true. The United Way has been serving this community for more than 80 years, and the annual campaign that raises more than a million dollars for area programs is highly visible throughout the region.
But how does an organization with a rich history in the two counties reach out to young people, and keep them informed and interested in philanthropy? It’s a daunting task that many legacy brand organizations face: How to interest a younger demographic.
Back in 2014, the United Way started a program with an aim to do just that, as well as give young people leadership opportunities and an outlet for networking.
That affinity group was dubbed Emerging Leaders.
Today, Emerging Leaders has more than 100 members in its ranks here. Made up of 18-40-year-olds who donate $250 in a year to the United Way, the organization holds several events throughout the year for its members that include philanthropy and friendship.
Last year, Emerging Leaders helped with a benefit concert at 123 Pleasant Street and packed food bags at the Holiday Toy and Food Distribution. In June, volunteers from the group spent time cleaning up trash along Deckers Creek Trail.
They worked the food pantry at Scott’s Run Settlement House and collected hygiene items, including toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash and floss, for Milan Puskar Health Right. Scott’s Run and Health Right are both funded partners of the local United Way.
And while two of last year’s festivities weren’t Emerging Leaders-specific events, many of the group’s members got involved in the Day of Giving, a day in which volunteers work on various projects throughout the community, and the 2019 Corporate Cup Challenge, a friendly competition among area businesses in which people compete in a variety of activities, including volleyball, kickball, team trivia and three-point shot.
Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic this year, Emerging Leaders had to adapt its activities to more of a virtual landscape, as well as some volunteer opportunities with social distancing. But the group’s impact is still felt in the community.
Many Emerging Leaders helped box food at Mylan Park and distribute the items across the county over the summer. And now, many of the members are assisting with organization and distribution of the Helpful Harvest Food Program.
In October, the group traditionally holds a Halloween social, but because of the pandemic, this year’s social has been replaced by the Spooky Sprint Virtual 5K Run/Walk. Organized by the group and sponsored by WVU Medicine, the Spooky Sprint is being held the last week of October, but participants must sign up by Oct. 10 to receive their race participation packet, which includes a T-shirt, race bib and medal. Once registered, participants must complete their 3.1-mile run/walk by midnight Oct. 31. Registration is $50. Learn more at unitedwaympc.org/spookysprint or go straight to the registration page at igfn.us/form/JWPOBw.
The group will have a great leadership workshop opportunity Oct. 13, when former WVU President David Hardesty and WVU Parents Club Founder Susan Hardesty will speak to the members via Zoom. The talk, titled “Honing in on Your Leadership,” will be at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 13. The virtual discussion is free to attend. Register online at tiny.cc/honingleadership.
“Emerging Leaders are working to build a solid foundation for the future of the United Way,” said Servando Arredondo, engagement manager for the local United Way and Emerging Leaders organizer. “It’s a way for young people to network, learn about volunteering opportunities, and gain leadership experience in our community. And it creates lifelong friendships along the way.”
If you’d like to be part of this organization, visit unitedwaympc.org/emergingleaders or text EL to 41444.
Amanda Posey is the director of marketing and communications for the United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.