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Economy & Business

Four Counties to Collaborate as United Way of Southwestern PA

United Way organizations serving Allegheny, Westmoreland, Fayette and Armstrong counties have combined efforts as the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Bob Nelkin, formerly the director of the Allegheny branch and now President and CEO of the larger operation, said the change was rapid after discussions of combining branch strengths began in June.

“Generally human service agencies – the ones helping low-income people, and disadvantaged youth, and frail seniors, and people with disabilities and returning vets – they’re all struggling and that includes United Ways. How do you best meet the needs of the population you’re trying to serve but do it in the most efficient way and the most impactful way?” he said.  

Offices will stay in their locations, Nelkin said, in order to identify local needs.

“We will take some of the strengths of the back office and combine them so that we can reduce some of the costs of providing the services, but still have local leaders identifying the local problems, organizing with local agencies to meet the local need,” he said.

Regional United Way branches have collaborated on programs in the past including the region-wide help line, 211. Callers from 11 counties in southwestern Pennsylvania can call the line to access resources and assistance.

“That was actually an idea brought to Allegheny County from our friends at United Way of Westmoreland County. It’s an example of the sort of innovation and collaboration that we expect to see more of,” he said.

Within a year Nelkin hopes to see an increase in fundraising and innovation from the combined effort, but he does not want one uniform set of programs.

“The dollars that will be raised in Westmoreland County will stay in Westmoreland County and they will meet local needs and they will be provided by the best local agencies who can show a big impact,” he said. 

All counties will continue to build the free tax preparation campaign while Allegheny County will look to incorporate areas of Westmoreland County’s school readiness program, Raising Readers, and Westmoreland will look to incorporate parts of Allegheny County’s Project Serve, a support program for active and veteran military members.