Challenge, opportunity, responsibility: Building a better future

By Rich Harshman and Dan LaVallee, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania campaign co-chairs


When we look at the last year, it is easy to say the glass is half full – or even mostly empty – but that’s not the case. Whether on a personal or business level, we are all struggling with something we’ve never had to deal with before. As leaders, as community members, as families, it is time for us to recognize the challenges of the last year and turn them into opportunities to forge a better future.

Serving as United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s campaign co-chairs at this critical juncture between crisis and rebuilding is a tremendous honor. On a deeply personal level, we are both believers in United Way’s mission and are committed to using our shared experience and passion to help create change. And we’re calling on you to join us.

As the pandemic reached its peak, people across the region lost their jobs, families struggled and the need was rising every day. United Way acted quickly to fortify their PA 211 Southwest helpline, connect with partners to share resources and provide life-saving services for neighbors in need. Though food bank lines were long and hope was fading, our community was coming together in a beautiful way. Funders, foundations, community partners, workplaces and donors came together to protect the most vulnerable members of our community and throw as many lifelines as possible to neighbors experiencing need for the first time in their lives. Because that’s what a community does; we take care of each other.

The path to recovery is years long and we don’t yet know what will happen along the way. But we do know that the journey will require leaders. People to help set the course and hold high the beacon of hope with relentless passion and enthusiasm. People like you. As co-chairs of this year’s campaign, we know that many decades separate us in age, but we were both raised in families that value community. While neither of us grew up with a lot of excess money, our parents taught us that it’s always right to help people in need if you can. That is why we are both so committed to United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

While the fever pitch may die down, need will always exist. Instead of being discouraged, what we can do is strive to understand the root causes of financial insecurity and work together to strengthen our shared safety net. United Way is on the frontlines of identifying and solving our region’s most urgent issues but they can’t do it alone.

Every challenge is an opportunity. To get stronger. To be better. To serve our community with compassion. Will you join us?