Now that the United Way of Trumbull County has decided to move forward independent of its Mahoning County counterpart, the pressure mounts to restore the agency's stature in the community.
The United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley agreed to dissolve and form a new organization with the Trumbull chapter. Despite endorsements from the Trumbull chairman, president and some board members, Trumbull United Way's donors voted 51-35 against the merger.
The decision could very well be a good one. Everybody can feel confident that the money raised in Trumbull County will address Trumbull County causes, causes that people in the local community feel deserve help. Nobody from Mahoning will have any say on Trumbull's priorities.
But those priorities will not get addressed without some drastic changes, and enlisting former Warren Mayor Michael O'Brien as the campaign chair is not the kind of drastic change we would recommend. It's time to get people excited again about United Way; O'Brien did not get too many folks, if any, excited during his mayoral administration.
The United Ways in both counties once raised more than $3 million each. Mahoning still raises about $2.5 million annually but Trumbull, which doesn't even set a fundraising goal, struggles to hit $1 million.
During that same time, not much different has happened in the two counties. Trumbull United Way can't blame population loss; Mahoning's numbers are similar. Trumbull United Way can't blame unemployment; Mahoning's numbers are similar. Trumbull United Way, therefore, needs to look inward for the answers.
Somehow, over time, Trumbull United Way stopped being a visible, valued, vibrant part of the community, at least in the eyes of many, many donors. So in the wake of last month's vote to reject a merger, United Way of Trumbull County must now find a way to re-invigorate itself or the decision to reject a merger will end up being a bad one.