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United Way Virginia Highlands Serving Russell, Smyth and Washington Counties

Newsletter | Winter 2013

Berry Home Centers Gives, Advocates & Volunteers Every year in our area, children struggle with literacy, families are losing their homes, and thousands are without health care. United Way of Virginia Highlands represents a lifeline for many essential services in this community. The goal is to live united—to break down barriers in the areas of education, financial stability and health. However, we can’t do it alone. Hundreds of individuals and businesses contribute to United Way yearly, but there are more ways to contribute than by giving a monetary donation, and that’s where Berry Enterprises comes in.


2012 was a big year for us! In August, the merger of United Way of Russell and Washington Counties with Smyth County formed United Way Virginia Highlands. This merger allowed us to hold our very first Smyth County Leadership Event, hosted by Tom and Kyra Bishop of Berry Enterprises. Tom and Kyra graciously opened their home to community members, as well as presented a check to United Way on behalf of Berry Enterprises totaling $3,670. Berry Enterprises and Berry employees have given over $7,000 in 2012 alone, money that United Way Virginia Highlands uses to foster and improve our community.


Berry Enterprises has played a vital role in advocating for a better and healthier community. One of United Way’s goals for improving the region is shared with Berry Enterprises: Health. Berry advocates good health in the community starting with a newly implemented wellness program for their employees. A fitness trainer is available for employees to utilize free of charge, and multiple health incentives are also offered. “We have implemented a wellness program because we believe that healthier employees are happier employees,” says Steve Kegley, Manager of Berry’s Abingdon location. As part of this health initiative, participating employees ran or walked the Rhythm and Roots 5K. For every mile completed by each employee, Berry donated $50. The total amount was presented at the Smyth County Leadership Event and United Way couldn’t be more grateful. The Rhythm and Roots 5K is just one example in which Berry advocates for United Way and they continue to work to promote health in our community.

Kegley said. “The tornado was awful, but a lot of good came out of it as well.” Kegley and other Berry employees also took the time and effort to deliver and plant tornado recovery trees. The remainder of the recovery trees were stored by Berry’s and tornado victims that needed additional trees were granted access to them. This year, when Hurricane Sandy struck the New York/New Jersey area, Berry Enterprises came to United Ways aid by donating a truck and drivers to help deliver supplies to victims. Berry Enterprises was and continues to be a huge help to United Way personally. In spring 2012, Berrys planted trees and constructed a picnic area at the United Way Virginia Highlands office. “Berry Enterprises never hesitates to donate their time, supplies or money for the betterment of the community,” says United Way Disaster Relief Manager, Sharon Atkins. “They have assisted with United Way’s backpacking program by donating a truck to deliver food to schools and various employees have also donated their time by packing the food for needy children alongside United Way employees and other volunteers. “ United Way will continue to focus on health, education and income in our community, while Berry Enterprises focuses on giving, advocating and volunteering for us. Both companies continue to work toward change, and Berry Enterprises is a partner that can make change happen.


Finally, a large part of Berry Enterprises is the volunteer spirit of hardworking, humble employees. During the 2011 tornado disaster, Berry Enterprises executives and employees rose to the challenge to assist not only United Way, but also our community directly. Steve Kegley , who is also a member of United Way’s and Washington County’s Long Term Recovery Group (LTRG), personally visited over 170 homes to assess the property damage. In addition to this effort, Kegley, along with other Berry employees, volunteered time to help complete the repairs on the properties. “The community has been really great to our company and when the tornado happened, we took the opportunity to give back,” Pictured: (left to right) Kyra Bishop, Travis Staton, Tom Bishop

Speedway Charities supports Backpacks Unite Speedway Children’s Charities awards United Way Virginia Highlands $7,000 to support Backpack Unite. Bristol Speedway Children’s Charities has distributed over $6.5 million dollars since its inception in 1996, and the United Way Virginia Highlands Backpack Program was one of several recipients during the 2012 Night of Smiles event held at Bristol Motor Speedway. Donna Fowlkes, Backpacks Unite Chairwoman, spoke of the program’s importance saying, “Backpacks Unite is a blessing to all...the volunteers, the donors, the staff and the “backpack” students in our area. What could be more important than feeding hungry children?” During the 2012-2013 school year, Backpacks Unite will provide 320 children at 16 elementary schools in Russell and Washington Counties vital weekend meals to ensure that hunger no longer persists within our youngest, most vulnerable populations. Backpacks Unite is made possible by local support and United Way Virginia Highlands welcomes all donations and volunteers to help meet the growing needs of our community’s children. For more information visit online at Pictured: Travis Staton, & Claudia H. Byrd

Community Impact – Your Dollars at Work United for a Healthier Tomorrow!

Addressing Hunger in Southwest Virginia

According to the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, nearly one third of children in Southwest Virginia are considered overweight or obese. United Way Virginia Highlands has partnered with the Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension Office, Southwest Pictured: Dottie Havlik, Nutrition Outreach Instructor, Virginia Medical Reserve Virginia Cooperative Extension SW District Corps and the Washington County School System to pilot an evidence-based, childhood obesity prevention program. This innovative program, called “OrganWise Guys” (OWG) is a comprehensive elementary school curriculum, built around a group of engaging characters that personify major organs of the body. These characters teach children, as young as five years old, to be ‘smart from the inside out’ by informing them of the negative impact of poor nutrition and lack of physical activity.

According to Feeding America of Southwest Virginia, nearly one in six people living in our region struggle to put food on the table every day. For the elderly, these statistics skyrocket even higher. In addition to this, 1 in 4 children don’t have adequate food to support healthy growth. While United Way Virginia Highlands is committed to addressing the root causes of hunger in our region, we also are not ignoring those who need our assistance immediately.

“Children, especially the very small ones, do not understand that eating large amounts of saturated fat on a continual basis may injure their heart,” stated Dr. Michelle Lombardo, D.C., founder and President of OWG, Inc. “However, young ones understand, and remember, this ’bad fat’ message when Hardy Heart shares the scientific information with them through fun and playful stories. In fact, independent research shows The OrganWise Guys curriculum, when combined with school meal programs, helps children live healthier lives and score higher on standardized tests than children who have not been part of the program,” said Lombardo. OrganWise Guys will be taught in 7 schools in Washington County, serving (576) kindergarten children beginning January 2013. This program is a part of United Way’s new mission to address underlying root causes of community issues in the areas of Health, Education and Income and is made possible because of your contributions to United Way’s Community Impact Fund.

Over the past several years, United Way Virginia Highlands has worked with several organizations that are committed to feeding the hungry. In addition to these efforts, we created our own program to combat the problem of childhood hunger called Backpacks Unite in 2011. This program currently helps more than 320 needy children in sixteen local elementary schools by providing meals for students over the weekend. In addition to providing food to children and young adults, United Way also has been committed to helping the elderly who face food insecurity. In doing so, we have continued to support programs such as the Abingdon Senior Center’s Meals on Wheels, which delivers food to the elderly who are unable to leave their homes. Although fighting food insecurity continues to be a challenge in the region, United Way is making strides to not only change the problem for good, but to lend a helping hand to those currently in need. Below is a complete listing of agencies that United Way has supported during the 2012-13 year and their funding amounts: $75,000 - Backpacks Unite - Elementary Schools $31,000 - Bread of Life Food Pantry $10,000 - Feeding America SWVA $50,000 - Meals on Wheels - Abingdon Senior Center $15,000 - Ecumenical Faith in Action $16,600 - Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry $18,000 - Mountain CAP $1,650 - Smyth County Department of Social Services

2012-2013 Food Insecurity Budget: TOTAL: $217,250.00

Campaign Updates 2012 Goal Exceeded Although the current economy is a challenge for us all, people in the Virginia Highlands district are still digging deep in their wallets and finding it in their hearts to donate to United Way Virginia Highlands. After a very busy campaign season, our company successfully surpassed our fundraising goal of $1.4 million by more than $40,000! Individual donors and several companies were instrumental in the success of meeting the goal, one of those companies being Utility Trailer in Glade Spring. From a company and employee drive held in November, Utility alone raised over $60,000 for United Way. “Our employees are fantastic, very giving, and care greatly,” stated Sam Cassell, Plant Manager at Utility Trailer Glade Spring. “Utility Trailer has a long history and a very strong bond with United Way. It’s a fundamental part of our commitment to give back to the communities where we live and work.”

Utility Trailer Employees

The recent merger between United Way of Russell and Washington Counties and United Way of Smyth County has proven very successful from a fundraising standpoint. Stacey Pomrenke, United Way Virginia Highlands Board Chairman, and Executive Vice President & CFO for BVU Authority stated, “Surpassing our goal of $1.4 million is extremely exciting, and we are proud to include Smyth County in our success this year. Although economic times are challenging, individuals and businesses, small and large, throughout our community have continued to show their support to make an impact.”

Pictured: Sam Cassell, CEO, Stacy Street, HR Specialist & Tim McVey, HR Manager

The United Way office has been filled with a busy, but successful campaign season. “We are so proud of all the hard work invested by our staff, volunteers, and company representatives. There’s no way we can make lasting change across our communities without them,” said Alison Hicks, Director of Resource Development for United Way Virginia Highlands. All of the funds that were raised within Russell, Washington and Smyth Counties will stay within the community and assist the programs and services within these areas.

Corporate Partner Highlight: Corporate Partners (CP) are vital to ensuring that 100% of all donor dollars remain and are reinvested back into our community. The corporate partner highlighted in this edition is not only a leader in the fiber industry, but they are the founding company in UWVH’s CP program. In 2009, Universal Fibers Systems, LLC stepped up to the plate, challenging other businesses to make corporate gifts to the United Way. “We came up with the idea of corporate partners because we wanted to create an environment where 100% of local money stays in the community and our employee gifts reach further in the community,” explained Howard Bartholomay, Director of Human Resources for Universal Fibers. “United Way is our way to help people in Washington County.” Marc Ammen, President and CEO of Universal Fibers states, “Our support for our local United Way Pictured: Marc Ammen, CEO, Universal Fibers & has never been stronger thanks to our growing associate base and their desire to “give back” in Howard Bartholomay, HR Manager, Universal Fibers our community. The work of United Way has never been as important as it is today,” says Ammen, “You don’t have to look far to find someone in dire need of help and hope.” United Way Virginia Highlands is proud of the support of Universal Fibers, Food City and Alpha Natural Resources all of which through their partnership help us to advance the common good by creating opportunities for a better life for all.

Wells Fargo Wells Fargo Insurance Services has been donating to the United Way for over 10 years. Although their staff is small, their hearts prove to be larger than life. Each year, Wells Fargo Insurance employees make a large impact by having 100% participation in United Way pledges. This is achieved not only by their annual campaign breakfast, but also by unique events held in their office, such as Friday jeans day. “One of the great things about the United Way, for me,” says Kenny Shuman, Vice President of Operations for the Virginia office, “is knowing how the United Way chooses the agencies they give to and that they do the follow up to know how the agencies spent their money.” Wells Fargo Insurance Services generosity is just another symbol of how even the smallest businesses in our community can make a big impact in the lives of others.

Pictured: Sandra Schrader, Claims Consultant, Wells Fargo Insurance, & Kenny Shuman, VP of Virginia Operations

201 Preston St.


P.O. Box 644 Abingdon, VA 24212 Ph: (276)-628-2160

United Way Virginia Highlands

Fax: (276)-628-8484 UWVH.ORG

Serving Russell, Smyth and Washington Counties

Corporate Partners

MAKE YOUR VOICE BE HEARD Contact Senator Warner: Website: Mailing Address: 8000 Towers Crescent Dr. Vienna, VA 22182 Phone: 202-224-2023 An effort to curtail charitable giving incentives has escalated. This effort will affect ANY non-profit, or any organization that relies on non taxable donations to function. This means our churches, food banks, some after school programs, and other charities; even United Way.

Please speak up today to protect charities' ability to help people in need. Multiple reports indicate that fiscal cliff negotiators are considering limits to the charitable deduction to pay for deficit reduction. This is a bad idea that will only harm those struggling the most in this economic downturn. While addressing the fiscal cliff is critical, shifting the burden to those in need is not the solution. At the same time that government funding for human services is being cut by tens of billions of dollars, we cannot afford to limit charities' capacity to serve communities. That amounts to a double-hit for people who need help the most. Please urge your federal representatives to oppose changes to the charitable deduction today!

Contact Congressman Griffith: Website: Mailing Address: 1108 Longworth HOB Washington, DC 20515 Phone: 202-225-3861 Fax: 202-225-0076

UWVH Winter 2013 Newsletter  

Winter 2013 Print Newsletter