United Way kickoff promo

The theme of this year’s United Way fundraising campaign kickoff, scheduled for Sept. 17, is a salute to first responders. Pictured at the Indiana Fire Association fire station in the 500 block of Philadelphia Street, where the virtual kickoff will be held, are, foreground, Chrissy Struzzi, left, and Kris Levan, campaign co-chairs, and, background, Amanda Augustine, left, and Annie Rizzo, co-vice chairs.

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing the United Way of Indiana County to hold its annual fundraising campaign kickoff virtually.

The kickoff this year will be livestreamed from downtown Indiana.

“We’ll be right here, in front of our very own (Indiana Fire Association) station on Philadelphia Street,” said campaign co-chair Chrissy Struzzi in a Facebook video promoting the event at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 17.

“You don’t have to go anywhere,” said co-chair Kris Levan. “You can stay right there, like you are right now, watch it on Facebook, and we’ll be here, we’ll be revealing our goal.”

“Our theme is ‘honoring our first responders,’” United Way Executive Director Jane Lockard-Clawson said.

There will be tables set up with about 40 baskets to go to the holders of winning tickets, which will be announced during the livestream from in front of the downtown fire station.

Even if it is not a 200-strong gathering as it has often been in the past, there are sponsors.

Gold Kick Off Sponsors include InFirst Bank, Good & Associates, McDonald’s, McNaughton Brothers and Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association.

Silver Kick Off Sponsors include CNB Bank and Wingard Tree Farm.

Bronze Kick Off Sponsors include Anew Home Health Agency, Friends of Jim Struzzi, Friends of Senator Joe Pittman, Gandolfi & Gandolfi CPA, Marion Center Bank and Smith, Lewis, Chess & Company.

Levan and Struzzi will be posting the fundraising raffle on the United Way Facebook page, beginning Tuesday, and tickets for the baskets can be purchased at www.bidpal.net/unitedwaykickoff. The Sept. 17 event also may be seen on the United Way’s YouTube channel.

“This year we’re using a specific website to promote the raffle,” Lockard-Clawson said. “People will have from Sept. 1 to Sept. 16 to purchase tickets.”

She said the community has been generous in donating baskets.

It is an example of generosity that echoed a need at the start of the pandemic.

“In the spring, we had an emergency relief fund,” Lockard-Clawson said. “The community stepped forward.”

Also on Sept. 17, there will be “a nice piece that educates people as to what the United Way does,” Lockard-Clawson said. “We will be doing that during our livestream.”

“Last year’s goal was $725,527,” Lockard-Clawson said. “We raised a little over $726,000.”

She did not disclose whether this year’s goal will be higher or lower, but conceded, “many people aren’t going to have the same kind of disposable income” as in past years because of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

And she acknowledged that there are drawbacks to trying to raise money during a pandemic, such as “not being able to go into a lot of worksites and do actual campaigning.”

But that doesn’t mean no outreach at all. For instance, Lockard-Clawson said, a handful of in-service school days have been scheduled for United Way volunteers to make their pitch in local school districts.

Still, she said, “we also are preparing and bracing ourselves for the worst. We are going to continue to move forward to support the nonprofits we support in the community.”

The United Way does have a solid start in the form of corporate campaign sponsors, Lockard-Clawson said. The Reschini Group is again a Community Leader, along with Creps United Publications, Government & Civil Employee Services, Rosebud Mining  Company, First Commonwealth Bank and Diamond Pharmacy Services.

Colonial Motors/Toyota/Arbuckle is a Champion, along with Thomas M. Frick Insurance and Affordable Interiors.

Other partners in the corporate campaign include Romeo’s Pizzeria and Mediterranean Kitchen, Clay & Gascoine CPA, UPMC, UPMC Health Plan, Margy Gray State Farm Insurance, Superior Yardscapes, Marcus and Mack Attorneys at Law, Indiana Regional Medical Center, S&T Bank, Gibson-Thomas Engineering, and Howard Hanna Kuzneski & Lockard Real Estate.

The United Way’s partner agencies are accessAbilities; the Alice Paul House; the American Red Cross; Camp Orenda; the Chevy Chase Community Center; Girl Scouts of Western PA; Indiana County Catholic Charities; Indiana County Child Day Care Program (IndiKids); Indiana County Head Start; Lifesteps of Indiana County; The Open Door; The Salvation Army; the Visiting Nurse Association; and the YMCA of Indiana County.