Campaign Kick Off

Devanna Corley, left, paints part of the Born Learning Trail with direction from Brett White, executive director of the United Way of Marion and Taylor Counties. Corley serves as chair of the 2020-21 United Way Campaign.

FAIRMONT — While the coronavirus has changed how many nonprofits are raising funds, at least one charity is not letting the pandemic slow it down.

The United Way of Marion and Taylor Counties is staying the course and plans to again this year raise $500,000 to help fund its partner charities during its Annual Campaign. Last year, the annual campaign brought in $503,475.

“I think Marion and Taylor counties, we have set a precedent now,” said Brett White, executive director of the United Way of Marion and Taylor Counties. “We don’t want to go back under half a million dollars. Our community needs every penny, and we believe in the generosity of our community, pandemic aside.”

While the annual campaign would normally kick off with a breakfast, this year’s United Way Campaign kicked off at Mary Lou Retton Park where staff members and volunteers installed a Born Learning Trail, which had been in the works for nearly a year.

White introduced United Way Campaign Chair Devanna Corley, who by day, works for Civil Environmental Consultants. Despite the challenge she faces in raising money during a pandemic, Corley said she is confident United Way will hit its goal.

“I feel very good about where we’re at,” Corley said. “While we’re all dealing with uncertain times and this isn’t what we would typically do for a kickoff of a campaign, it definitely brings new perspective.”

Corley said the United Way’s COVID Fund, which was created in March to aid people affected by the pandemic, as a sign that the campaign will still do well amid the current circumstances. She said its success shows that people are still willing to contribute to help others in need, so she believes she can earn the same success with the campaign.

“We saw it with our COVID campaign, we raised $100,000 and provided meals to people across the counties during that terrible time,” Corley said. “So I think people will step forward in a big way, and I think the economy is going to recover and we’re going to see great things with it.”

White said the engagement in the COVID fund is an asset to the campaign, because people who may had never been impacted by the United Way before may have seen the fund’s impact through its work in the pandemic.

“The thing that was really impressive about our COVID fund is we raised $100,000 for that COVID fund just in our two counties, which again is a real testament to the generosity of our citizens and our corporations and companies,” White said. “I think we can hope to re engage some of those individuals who maybe were new donors to the COVID fund can now be engaged in the actual campaign too.”

She said the fact that there are a number nonprofits that have been financially affected by the pandemic is an even better reason to donate to the larger campaign this year.

“Nonprofits have suffered significant funding losses,” White said. “They have been working nonstop since the pandemic started; none of the nonprofits have been able to take any time off. So the support now through our annual campaign, which helps fund them year-long is more important now than ever.”

Normally, the United Way would hold different events in which residents can donate to the campaign, however, COVID-19 put a stop to that.

“It’s going to be month to month, we’re just going to kind of see how it goes,” White said. “We don’t have concrete plans for this year, because we’re not sure what things will look like, but we’re hoping to maybe still have a few in-person events, just smaller and more intimate.”

Corley said this dynamic is one challenge she is excited to face, while also is hoping that innovation will lead the way. She believes her team will find ways to innovate new fundraising events.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to come up with new ways to do fund raising for the United Way Campaign,” Corley said. “I think with the great leadership that we have with Brett and his entire team, there’s going to be all kinds of neat things that you haven’t seen before, and I’m pretty excited about that.”

As volunteers planted signposts, chalked down patterns and painted the sidewalk, Corley explained the meaning behind this year’s theme for the United Way Campaign, “Forward Together.” This theme, she said, comes from the idea that it will take everyone to get through the pandemic to the other side, and the cooperation of everyone will also make the campaign a success.

“That concept has really come about as a result it has taken everybody to move us forward,” Corley said. “No one alone can make this happen, and so we’re going to have to be calling on the resources of the past, but looking for new people as we transition into the future.

“Every penny counts and all the money stays right here.”

White said the theme of Forward Together means individual members are capable of impacting the community through cooperation and individual contributions. He hopes to take the momentum built from the COVID Fund to the United Way Campaign.

”I think what the crisis showed us, COVID-19 showed us, is that working together we can achieve so much more,” White said. “We were able to build a lot of coalitions during the original pandemic planning that we hope to now bring into the fall to this campaign.”

Email Eddie Trizzino at etrizzino@timeswv.com and follow him on Twitter at @eddietimeswv.

News Reporter

Eddie Trizzino has been a reporter with the Times West Virginian since August of 2017, covering the entertainment, business and health beats. He spends most of his time listening to records, going to the movies and strolling through the town.

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