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United Way Annouces Bold Vision

ERIE, PA (May 17, 2012) - United Way of Erie County today announced a bold challenge to reduce by one-third the number of families currently living below the self-sufficiency mark in our community. To achieve that vision, United Way also set a goal to ensure at least two-thirds of our high school graduates are prepared to succeed in post-secondary education.

The announcements were made by United Way reprsentatives during the organization’s 2012 Annual Meeting. Nearly four hundred of Erie County’s community leaders and philanthropists were in attendance as United Way held the luncheon at the Ambassador Conference Center.

“15,142 children in Erie County are living in poverty,” said Bill Jackson, president of United Way of Erie County. “That is unacceptable and we know we can do better. That’s why we are challenging every person and every organization in Erie County to rally together and reduce poverty in our region.”

United Way of Erie County helped raise over $5.9 million during its 2011 Campaign, led by Campaign Chair Jim E. Martin, regional president for Northwest Savings Bank. The amount is a substantial increase over the previous year. United Way officials praised the community for the generous support, but also stated that it will take more than money to reduce poverty.

“Mobilizing the community into collective action is exactly why United Way exists,” said R.J. Zonna, senior vice president for United Way. “Our fundraising success is a tribute to the generosity of the inviduals and business in our community. But we also need people to continue advocating and volunteering for United Way if we want to acheive real, lasting change that creates a brighter tomorrow. That’s what we mean when we encourage everyone to LIVE UNITED.”

United Way acknowledged that reducing poverty will take the entire community working together. The education goal to increase the number of prepared high school graduates received strong support from local school superintendents who have endorsed the plan. Likewise, United Way indicated that community partnerships like Erie Together and Erie Vital Signs will be crucial to succeeding in the organization’s vision.

During the annual meeting, United Way honored the Erie Regional Chamber & Growth Partnership (ERGCP) with the 2012 Live United Award. This prestigious award is bestowed by United Way to organizations that demonstrate exemplary collaboration with United Way. The ERGCP was chosen due in large part to their work on Erie Together, the region-wide initiative to reduce poverty. Last year’s winner of the LIVE UNITED Award was the Erie Women’s Fund.

Additionally, five lucky contributors of $156 or more to United Way during the 2011 Campaign learned they were the winners of this year’s incentive prizes. The prizes included a $3,000 shopping spree, courtesy of Wegmans; two roundtrip airplane tickets, courtesy of Erie International Airport, Tom Ridge Field;a $1,000 gas card, courtesy of Country Fair; a birthday party package for 25 people, courtesy of Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park; and free movie tickets for a year, courtesy of Iadeluca Chiropractic Center. Also, two additional step-up incentives were awarded, including $600 in gift cards to any Scott Enterprises restaurant and a 42” HD-TV, compliments of Jensen’s Target Collision. These were part of the Step-Up Incentive drawings in which anyone who increased their annual pledge by $26 or made a new donation of $26 or more was eligible to win.

Also, United Way announced John Skory, regional president of Penelec - A FirstEnergy Company, will chair United Way of Erie County’s 2012 Campaign.