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United Way News

LCUW, Catch-All Self Storage providing warmth to community

coat drive 1 (2) (800x550)More than 500 coats; 200 hats, gloves and scarves; and additional blankets and other winter wear were donated to the Catch-All Coat Drive, an effort to help shield Lycoming County from the cold. The drive, hosted by Lycoming County United Way and Catch-All Self Storage, lasted two weeks and donations filled a storage unit at the business. The items will be disbursed through funded partners of Lycoming County United Way before cold weather grips the area. Here, Matthew Rodgers, manager at Catch-All, left, and Carolyn Hawk, LCUW director of funding and community relations, deliver some of the coats to the Rev. J. Morris Smith, Shepherd of the Streets.

NCSS Prevention of Blindness program helps detect vision problems in youngsters


Danika K., 3, of Williamsport, is a happy-go-lucky preschooler. Typical to most young children, she never indicated to her parents that she was having trouble with her vision. But when Danika had a vision screening, provided by North Central Sight Services, Inc., at her preschool in May, the results showed differently. Danika had anisometropia. Her eyes each have a different focusing power.

“When the vision results paper came home from school, I was really surprised because Danika never said she was having an issue,” said Angela, Danika’s mother. “Though now I realize it is common for children because they have no baseline with which to compare how they can see.”

Danika also has hearing loss in both ears and wears hearing aids. So, Angela assumed Danika was using her vision fully, especially to compensate for her hearing loss. When she realized this wasn’t the case after seeing the screening results, she immediately made an appointment with a local optometrist for a full vision exam, where they confirmed the condition.

“Within the month, Danika had glasses,” Angela said.

The young girl’s gross motor skills also have improved significantly, especially her running and jumping.

“She definitely moves with more confidence and assurance,” Angela said.

The adjustment to wearing glasses was minimal, although through the initial challenges Angela did wonder how was this going to work. Thankfully, Danika put her glasses on the next day and hasn’t fussed since. Now, she specifically asks for her glasses and comments that she can see her sister now.

“The prevention program provided by NCSS is fabulous because I now realize Danika would have developed much differently had her vision issue gone undiagnosed,” Angela said.

NCSS screens and educates more than 1,400 children and adults in Lycoming County as part of its Prevention of Blindness Program, a United Way funded program.

“Normal. What is normal?” reasoned Scott N. Lowery, LCUW executive director. “For most all of us, we judge normal to be something for which we personally routinely experience in everyday life. For Danika, ‘her normal wasn’t normal.’ Without the vision screening provided by North Central Sight Services it may have been several more years before Danika’s condition was detected. Detecting the problem at an early age is helping Danika experience a brand new ‘normal,’ thus enhancing one of life’s grandest gifts – the gift of sight.”

Lycoming County United Way is proud to provide $33,185 to North Central Sight Service’s Social Services and Prevention of Blindness programs. But we cannot do it without you. Help us continue support by making a contribution today. Call Lycoming County United Way at 323-9448 or visit


Helping others learn to help themselves



Thinking about what you will have for dinner tonight? What you will wear today? How you will get to where you need to go and where you will sleep tonight? No? That’s because these are all pretty easily answered for most of us. Often running on auto-pilot, these are things we put little thought into, but for the overwhelming population of the underprivileged in Lycoming County, the answers to these questions are unknown.

Thank goodness someone is willing to provide an answer.

The Rev. Velinda Smith runs Sojourner Truth Ministries, 501 High Street, supported, in part, by Lycoming County United Way. Sojourner Truth, born as Isabella Baumfree in 1797, was a slave in New York and Pennsylvania. She was freed in 1822 by the Pennsylvania Legislature. Upon receiving her freedom, she became a Methodist preacher and changed her name, preaching against slavery and women’s rights.

Rev. Velinda, along with her husband and a countless number of volunteers and staff, open the doors to the building seven days a week to “the disenfranchised, the homeless, and lonely of any age or culture.”

Sojourner’s mission is to provide lunch seven days a week, while offering friendship and assistance for local individuals, and ministries that arise from the needs of those who come through the doors. A worship service is provided through the mission church service Sunday afternoons at 1:30 p.m., along with weekly services designed for both men and women.

In addition to a continental breakfast served at 8 a.m. weekdays and a hot breakfast Saturday and Sunday; a free, healthy lunch is served each day at 11:30 a.m. A Saturday Café is served by the local church communities of faith. And on Sundays, a full Sunday dinner is shared after the 1:30 p.m. worship service.

Perhaps what sets Sojourner apart from other food providers is the way in which the 80 to 100 visitors are treated each day.

“We are not a soup kitchen,” Rev. Velinda said. “We are a café. We serve all the food. And on Fridays, we do takeout so if there are any leftovers, people can take it along with them.”

“From Our Hands to Yours,” open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., offers free adult and children’s clothing.

“Once a month, an individual or family can get six outfits or 12 items,” Rev. Velinda said. “If there are four children, each will get three outfits, and two pairs of shoes and socks. We really appreciate all of the community support. We are in desperate need of men’s clothing all the time.”

Sojourner has also established a help desk, offering social services to its patrons. Two social workers, one Rev. Velinda’s daughter, Derecia, offer a listening ear, ministry and referrals for emergency housing shelters, health and dental care agencies, pregnancy care centers, food distribution centers and other local agencies.

“We have seen everything,” Derecia said. “Clothing, housing needs, food, help applying for jobs – we helped a girl get an ID and another who was starting a job the following Monday who lost her car keys. It cost too much to get new ones so we helped her track down a way to get her car running.”

And, Derecia added, she and her co-worker do a lot of listening.

“We do a lot of talking to people and a lot of scripture sharing,” she said. “Not too long ago, there was a girl who came in and you could see all over her face that something was wrong. As she was telling me what was going on, I gave her some scripture that I was being drawn to share. She said, ‘How did you know? I just feel so much better.’ When you see someone broken — spiritually, physically — you help them walk away with a smile.”

But Sojourner doesn’t stop there. On Tuesdays, fresh produce is given out at 10:30 a.m., and on Wednesdays at the same time, bread and pastries are provided.

On the third Friday of each month, a nutrition class is offered and also once a month, dental necessities are provided to those who need them.

“You see, we don’t want to just help people. We want to teach others how to help themselves,” Rev. Velinda said.

“Rev. Velinda and her associates are providing more than a temporary sanctuary for those she serves,” said Scott N. Lowery, LCUW executive director. “Each day meals, socialization, life skills and educational training are entwined in the mission of Sojourner Truth. Human dignity uplifts the spirit in all of us and is a prime motivation in the activities Sojourner is providing to those they serve.”

Food and clothing donations are accepted on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays until 8 p.m. For more information about Sojourner Truth Ministries, visit

Lycoming County United Way is proud to provide $10,000 to Sojourner Truth Ministries. But we cannot do it without you. Help us continue support by making a contribution today. Call Lycoming County United Way at 323-9448 or visit


Local agency changes “disabilities” to “hopeabilities”

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There is a local agency that lives up to its name each and every day. Hope Enterprises, Inc., not only provides a multitude of services to people with intellectual disABILITIES, but it also provides hope to those individuals and proves that we all have the ability to lead productive lives.

35-year-old Missy was born with Down syndrome. For the past 15 years, she’s been attending the many programs offered at Hope. There, she not only has a positive learning experience, but she has fun doing so among her peers.

“Missy is fun-loving, she likes to do things with the other individuals and she’s just a happy-go-lucky person most of the time,” said Julie Stewart, a trainer in Missy’s group. “She’s got a lot of friends. I love working with the individuals. I could be having the worst day of my life, and I come in here and they make me smile.”

Missy spends her days in the gardening and outdoor group, under the supervision of Julie and Macey McBryan. One of her favorite things to do with the group is to put puzzles together, but perhaps the most fun she’s had recently involved making popsicle and watermelon crafts.

“We cut up watermelons out of, like, green, and you put dots on them for seeds,” Missy said. “We take the seeds out when we eat (real watermelons).”

According to Julie, the group has an outdoor garden at the facility and also participates with a community garden, traveling there three days a week to plant and water their crops.

Hope provides multiple services to people with intellectual disABILITIES from infancy through adulthood. United Way funds support the agency’s transportation program, which is critical to linking clients to appropriate services. Vehicles transport clients to and from group homes, the rehabilitation workshop, and other day programming on a daily basis.

Missy utilizes these transportation services every day and said she enjoys riding the vans to and from the facility.

Thanks to Hope Enterprises, she and her friends thrive on the interaction and activities offered specifically for those with disabilities. By providing a place for both one-on-one and group interaction, the agency is changing “disabilities” to “hopeabilities.”

“For Hope Enterprises, ‘hopeability’ is much more than a catchy slogan,” said Scott N. Lowery, Lycoming County United Way executive director. “The lives of clients like Missy are enriched everyday via the rehabilitation and vocational programs Hope provides. Funding from our United Way enables individuals the access to transportation services, getting them from home to Hope on a daily basis. This transportation provides a level of independence and accessibility that otherwise would not be provided.”

Lycoming County United Way is proud to provide $45,544 to the transportation program at Hope Enterprises, Inc. But we cannot do it without you. Help us continue support by making a contribution today. Call Lycoming County United Way at 323-9448 or visit

Woman changes direction in life with help from The Learning Center

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It was just not the year for Desiree 10 years ago. She describes herself as being a “troubled teen” the year her mother fell ill. She missed three months of school due to the cancer diagnosis and struggled getting back into her classes upon her return. A math teacher’s comment, she said, was the last straw.

“It was already something I was worried about. I never did good in math,” Desiree said. “He said to me, ‘Why even come back? You’re not going to catch up. You’re not going to pass.’”

Although her mother was reluctant, she signed the papers for Desiree to withdraw from school.

“When she dropped me off that day, she said she understood, but that if I chose to do it, I had to walk home from school that day,” she said. “So I walked home from school that day.”

Desiree attended night classes for a time before starting at CareerLink to pursue her GED. But she said she just wasn’t getting what she needed there.

“I was basically just studying the book on my own through reading it every night,” she said. “I wasn’t getting the help I needed to pass the one test that was left, language arts.”

That’s when she discovered The Learning Center. She began attending in October 2014, with a goal to pass the final portion of her GED testing.

“What I have experienced here as opposed to the other places I’ve tried … it’s been nothing but encouragement,” Desiree said. “That’s why I’m still here. I felt that I needed the right place and the right people.”

The Learning Center, a program of the Lycoming County Library System, is a Lycoming County United Way Program Partner, receiving funding each year to support its services. The adult literacy and basic education program provides one-on-one tutoring services in reading, writing and math skills. Tutoring is provided by trained volunteers and staff members of the Literacy Project.

”The purpose of The Learning Center is to provide services to adults in order for them to acquire skills to be effective in their roles as members of their families, communities and workplaces,” said Linda Herr, director of the program. “United Way is our primary source of support. Without the LCUW, resources are so limited that The Learning Center services to those adults who need educational skills for employment, to get a GED, or to enter post-secondary education and training would be severely diminished or vanish altogether.”

Desiree attends classes offered through The Learning Center periodically, but does most of her work with tutor, Mary Sieminski.

“Desiree and I meet once a week at the library to help her prepare for the Language Arts section of the GRE exam,” Mary said. “We use a series of workbooks provided by the literacy center and I also give her ‘homework’ to prepare for our next session. The one-on-one tutoring is working very well.”

Desiree, she added, is very determined to get her GED completed and move on to college.

“She has already made inquiries to at least two colleges,” Mary said. “She is committed to this goal, despite the obstacles she faces in caring for her two children and her mother, who is seriously ill.”

Desiree, now 27, plans to take her last test in September. Her goal, she said, is to pursue a college degree in human services.

“I have always just really wanted to help people,” she said.

Scott N. Lowery, LCUW executive director, said he was stunned when he learned that 15% of the adults in Lycoming County could not read at the third-grade level.

“To me, that was a staggering statistic that has spill-over effects on so many aspects of an individual’s life,” he said. “The Learning Center, via one-on-one tutoring, is helping adults achieve reading skills and further their education to help them better their lives and their self-worth.”

Lycoming County United Way is proud to provide $75,000 to The Learning Center, a program of the Lycoming County Library System. But we cannot do it without you. Help us continue support by making a contribution today. Call Lycoming County United Way at 323-9448 or visit

Help shield others from the cold!!

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Nurse Family Partnership program helps new mom cope with motherhood, finishing school

Nurse Family Partnership (600x800)

Natasha was in high school when she found out she was pregnant. She and her boyfriend, Nate, decided they would accept the challenges of parenting.

When Natasha enrolled in Susquehanna Home Care and Hospice’s Nurse Family Partnership program, she was 17 years old and 25 weeks gestation.

Nurse Family Partnership assists first-time, low-income mothers by providing maternal-child education, enabling a healthy pregnancy and increasing the bond between mother, father and baby. The program also helps first-time, low-income mothers continue on a positive life course by encouraging them to remain in an educational program or gain employment. NFP home visitors visit these families from the time that the woman first discovers that she is pregnant until the child is two years old.

“A soft-spoken, shy teenager was my first impression of Natasha,” said Anne Rhoads, Natasha’s NFP nurse. “During her pregnancy, we discussed healthy lifestyle choices and preparation of labor and delivery.”

Initially, Natasha wasn’t particularly interested in academics, but she did and continues to participate in the ELECT program (Education Leading to Employment and Career Training), offered by Susquehanna Health. The Reproductive Health Center provides support for pregnant and parenting teens in Lycoming County to stay in school and graduate. Support involves case management of the student, including parenting, child development and prevention of a second pregnancy.

“Several weeks after we started meeting, Natasha started to show a renewed interest in her courses at school with improved grades,” Anne said. “She is currently attending Cyber School and plans to receive her diploma next year.”

Upon graduation, Natasha said she hopes to attend college to pursue a career as an audiologist.

“My son, Mathias, gives me the desire to be the best I can be,” Natasha said.

Mathias, who will soon celebrate his first birthday, was born with microtia, a condition in which the external ear is underdeveloped. This required frequent visits to specialists in Pittsburgh and Danville.

According to Anne, Natasha was determined to breastfeed and when Mathias was unable to latch due to a lip anomaly, she persevered by pumping and seeking ways to continue providing breastmilk to her son.

“I interacted with the physicians, asking questions and educating myself on what was best for him,” Natasha said. “When Mathias got his Baja band, which is a little person’s hearing aid, a whole new world opened up for him.”

Unfortunately, said Scott N. Lowery, LCUW executive director, not a single child enters this world with a control over the circumstances that await them.

“Fortunately, when difficult circumstances exist, United Way’s collaboration with Nurse Family Partnership is providing first-time, low-income mothers with the help they need to enable a healthy pregnancy and increasing the bond between mother, father and baby,” he said. “That is a head start everyone can embrace.”

Lycoming County United Way is proud to provide $40,000 to the Nurse Family Partnership program. But we cannot do it without you. Help us continue support by making a contribution today. Call Lycoming County United Way at 323-9448 or visit

Larson Design Group Basket Raffle

Larson Design Group is having a blast with their Lycoming County United Way campaign and they want you to be a part of it! View the 18 baskets that are up for raffle at the Williamsport location below. If you’re interested in purchasing a ticket, stop by LDG, Water Tower Square, 1000 Commerce Park Drive (1-877-323-6603), or LCUW, 33 West Third Street, Suite 201 (570-323-9448). If you choose to put your name in through LCUW, please be sure to note the basket number!

Ticket costs:
1 for $1.00
3 for $2.00
8 for $5.00
20 for $10.00

Winners will be picked October 26th!






Prominent figures lead this year’s United Way campaign

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Following successful careers informing and educating the public, radio personality Ken Sawyer and educators John and Margaret Piper are applying their proven life skills to the vital volunteer efforts in leading this year’s Lycoming County United Way campaign. Sawyer, the 2015 campaign chair, and the Pipers, serving as co-campaign vice chairs, are ever-mindful of the important role the annual United Way campaigns play in improving the lives of thousands of Lycoming County residents facing personal crises in their daily lives.

“During my years on the radio I interviewed many individuals and leaders of causes who were dedicated to making positive changes in people’s lives. I was always impressed by their passion, yet sometimes dismayed by the obstacles cluttering their paths to success,” noted Sawyer. “I later learned, through my involvement on the Boards of North Central Sight Services and the American Red Cross, that no matter how noble the cause, that for the organization to succeed it was imperative that the general public had an understanding and a buy in to what the charity was trying to accomplish.”

“For me, the beauty of United Way is that it is not one cause. It is one organization with a mission to improve lives involving 34 very important human service programs all represented by a single cause. It’s been said ‘strength is in numbers’ and we are indeed fortunate to have hundreds of dedicated volunteers giving of themselves to improve the lives of others. I believe that is something the community can and should support. That’s why I got involved.”

Lifetime educators, the Pipers share Sawyer’s commitment to community. Margaret served as a Special Educator with the Loyalsock Township School District, Head Start and Hope Enterprises. John retired as Lycoming College Dean in 2007, an institution he served since 1969 and held pastoral positons at several local churches from 1975 – 2004.

They have established an impressive resume of volunteer service including Margaret’s presidency of the YWCA, Valley View Nursing Center, and the Loyalsock Township School District Board. She has also served as a high school Biology teacher and adjunct Biology instructor at Lycoming College and Pennsylvania College of Technology. John, a noted local historian, has served as Board chair for the Lycoming County Historical Society, the Children’s Development Center and the West Branch Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission.

“We believe United Way is a crucial part of our community’s health and well-being. The sharing of dollars and services helps reach a multitude of people in need who could not be reached by our individual efforts. We’re proud to assist Ken and our many volunteers in raising these much needed funds; stressed John and Margaret.”

“We are extremely pleased to have their guiding hands leading this year’s campaign,” said Scott N. Lowery, LCUW executive director. “They have a wealth of knowledge of the Lycoming County community and are well respected by those who live here, they understand and support the mission we serve, and are undaunted by the challenges we face. We have more than 400 volunteers playing active roles in helping the campaign to achieve success. Ken, John and Margaret are providing positive leadership to the volunteer team as we all strive for the needed funding in support of the vital human service programs so necessary right here at home.”

Assisting Sawyer and the Pipers in campaign leadership roles are the members of Lycoming County United Way’s Campaign Cabinet who serve as Division Chairs in the campaign structure.

Combined Federal Campaign – Carolyn Hawk, Lycoming County United Way

Corporate Division – Amanda Wallace, Susquehanna Health

County Division – Anne Tiberia, M&T Bank

Education Division – Jeannette Carter, community volunteer

Employee Division – Dennis Correll, Pennsylvania College of Technology

Energy Division – Marty Muggleton, community volunteer

Human Service Division – Dr. James Campbell, Hope Enterprises, Inc.

Leadership Giving – Ron Frick, M&T Bank

Loaned Executive Division – Ashlie Gittens, Kelly Services

Professional Division – Michael Wiley, Esq., McCormick Law Firm

Public Service Division – Timothy Mahoney, community volunteer

State Employees Campaign Appeal – Deb Machamer, Lycoming County United Way

Special Accounts Division – Scott N. Lowery, Adrienne Wertz, Lycoming County United Way

Williamsport Small Business Division – Garrett Sanner, M&T Bank

Williamsport Residential Division – Mary Engel, community volunteer

Last year’s campaign co-chairs Tim and Jill Bair also serve on the Campaign Cabinet in an advisory capacity.

To gain further information about this year’s campaign or to make a donation, contact the Lycoming County United Way office, 570-323-9448 or visit their web page at


YWCA Northcentral PA turns lives around for victims of abuse

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Being on the receiving end of abuse is terrifying and for many domestic violence victims, like Danielle, escaping emotional and physical abuse can create its own set of nightmares and challenges.

This is her story.

Danielle moved to the Williamsport area many years ago from another state. She was a young adult setting off on an ordinary adventure to discover what life was like beyond her childhood community.

While here, she met a man who would later become her husband and father of their two children.

Danielle’s husband began to emotionally and mentally abuse her. Like many abusers, he began with small comments that he attempted to justify as “just being frustrated with work,” among other excuses.

But over time, hateful and demeaning comments about her intelligence, emotions and body broke Danielle’s spirit. She began to feel worse and worthless as his comments intensified and she was forbidden to work or interact with her friends and family. After years of increasing torment, Danielle knew she had to return home to escape his mind control and abuse.

This was heartbreaking for Danielle because she had to leave her children with him. He was not abusive to the kids and he was able to provide housing and food for them while keeping them in school – necessities Danielle could not provide while seeking her own mental health and safety.

While taking steps to rebuild her broken heart and spirit, Danielle met a man who promised to keep her safe and happy. He quickly broke his promise and began to manhandle Danielle and beat her severely.

After she was hospitalized as a result of his abuse, Danielle returned to Williamsport to be close to her children, whom she missed terribly. She got her own place and began to share custody of her children with her now ex-husband.

But quickly his mental and emotional abuse reared its ugly head again – with more intensity and threats than before, forcing Danielle to seek a Protection From Abuse order and fight for full custody of her children.

“She couldn’t take it any longer and came to Wise Options to find safety and solace from abuse,” said YWCA Wise Options Manager Amber Morningstar. “She was determined and knew she needed help to rebuild her life and create a strong future for herself and her children.”

Wise Options is Lycoming County’s only 24-7 comprehensive service center that cares for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and violent crimes – providing a safe place to stay and emotional support for women, children, and men experiencing the torment of abuse. Professional staff guides victims of domestic violence and rape to build independent lives of security through counseling, advocacy and unconditional support.

Danielle stayed in Wise Options for 30 days and met regularly with counselors.

“Everything she said she wanted to accomplish, she did,” Amber said, adding that Danielle knew she had to stabilize her own life in order to regain custody of her children and create a stable future for them.

During her one-month stay in Wise Options, Danville bought her own car. She then transitioned the YWCA’s Liberty Options program, a special subset of Liberty House for women who are homeless as a direct result of violence.

While completing the intensive case management and education of Liberty Options, Danielle regained full custody of her children and enrolled in college so that she and her children have a strong foundation to build a safe, happy, bountiful life together.

“None of us knows what goes on behind the closed doors of others, but we certainly expect someone’s home to be a safe sanctuary,” said Scott N. Lowery, LCUW executive director. “For Danielle, that wasn’t the case and she didn’t feel she had a safe place to turn. But thanks to the United Way-funded YWCA programs, she has achieved full custody of her children and is putting her life back together. These are the kinds of investments we are proud to be making and thanks to our donors we are able to do so.”

Lycoming County United Way is proud to provide $103,000 to the YWCA Northcentral PA’s Wise Options and Liberty House programs. But we cannot do it without you. Help us continue support by making a contribution today. Call Lycoming County United Way at 323-9448 or visit