The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


January 29, 2014

United Way honors three volunteers, PPL

— LEWISBURG — J. Donald Steele Jr., Norman Rich, Alicia King Redfern and PPL Corp. received special recognition for outstanding contributions to the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way on Wednesday during an annual meeting where the organization reviewed significant and controversial decisions from 2013.

Steele, president and chief executive officer of Northumberland National Bank, who has served the United Way board in a variety of roles since 1996, including chairman and treasurer, received the Pat Toole Leadership Award.

Rich, of Sunbury, a member and past chairman of the United Way board, received the 2013 Lifetime of Caring Award.

Redfern, a retired associate professor of psychology at Bloomsburg University, who led the newly formed Women’s Leadership Council of the Susquehanna River Region, received the 2013 Florence Pyle Dedicated Service Award.

PPL, headquartered in Allentown, contributed $3.3 million to United Way chapters throughout its service area, including $600,000 in the greater central Pennsylvania region and recently $25,000 in Educational Improvement Tax Credit funds to the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way. PPL received the 2013 Business of the Year Award.

Board Chairman Eric Rowe, of Wood-Mode, welcomed an audience of nearly 100. He acknowledged local businesses and institutions — M&T Bank, Northumberland National Bank, Bucknell and Susquehanna universities, FNB and Swineford banks, Weis Markets, local auto dealers and volunteers from the United Way board — for lending their executives to the United Way and sponsoring incentives to participate in the annual fund drive.

United Way Chief Executive Officer Keri Albright reviewed the agency’s continuing conversion from strictly fundraising on behalf of human service agencies to developing impact councils to address six priorities for change, identified through community surveys.

The event, held in the Campus Theatre, allowed the names of dozens of supporters and volunteers to appear on the big screen as Rowe and Albright listed dozens of volunteers for committees and councils working toward measurable improvements in transportation, early childhood learning, drug and alcohol prevention and recovery, diversity and acceptance, at-risk teens and persistent poverty.

Ezra Ellis, a recovering alcoholic, and Bobbie Walker, whose childhood was largely in the care of alcohol-dependent adults, offered personal accounts of the effects of addiction on the users, their families and themselves. “I am not up here for shock and awe, “ Ellis said, “just for honesty and truth.”

Addressing the theme of diversity, Tammy Simpson spoke about the loss of her son, Brandon Bitner, 14, a Midd-West student who committed suicide in 2010 after leaving a three-page note outlining five years of harassment and being regarded as different by his peers.

“It basically comes down to acceptance,” Simpson said. “If people would have accepted Brandon for who he was — a loving individual — he would be here today.”

In her earlier review, Albright referred to the local United Way’s publicly controversial decision not to fund the local chapter of the Boy Scouts of America after the national organization opened its ranks to same-sex oriented Scouts, but upheld a ban on same-sex oriented adult volunteers and leaders.

“We discussed how we will live united and reassessed what you should be for and reaffirmed our stand for equality for all individuals and their families,” she said.

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