Dave and Laura Grabowsky, United Way of Greater Stark County Campaign Co-Chairs 2021-2022

How did you get involved in United Way?

Dave: I have been involved with United Way since 1979. I am a contractor and I was asked to run the United Way construction division. My role was to oversee coordinating the collection for United Way donations. I was greatly impressed by the generosity of these companies to give back to their community. It gave me an opportunity to meet people and discuss the United Way story. I’m a believer that if you can meet someone in person, that’s always a better opportunity than talking with them on the phone. United Way has always reached out to both beneficiaries and donors. I think that is why this past year was so challenging. It was missing the face-to-face interaction because of COVID-19 restrictions.   

Laura: My first campaign was in 1994, when we were first married. I learned about United Way through my Leadership Stark County experience and this lead to my involvement with the campaign.

You were the Campaign Co-Chairs for Alexis de Tocqueville from April 2019 to March 2021. Tell us about that.

Dave: Since I started as an organizer for collection of donations, I feel like I was heavily involved in understanding United Way from the start. I was very comfortable asking people for donations at my company over the years. It is very important for people to see what they are donating to, and with human services, that can be tough. Sometimes you only have numbers to share and that isn’t as tangible as someone who is willing to tell their emotional story. But you don’t always have that option. As Alexis de Tocqueville Society Co-Chair, I was responsible mostly for bringing in new donors. It is important that as a prospective Alexis de Tocqueville member we would meet and discuss the value of United Way to the community. Once people recognize the value of an organization, they are much more likely to contribute. 

Laura: Being a part of the Alexis de Tocqueville network is an honor. You are surrounded by like-minded people who are local leaders. Asking for donations is tough, especially in an ongoing pandemic environment. Dave is great at networking, approaching people and explaining how important it is for people to give donations. It is  inspiring to see people who are willing to give back so generously. I feel grateful to live in such a philanthropic community. to their community.

Can you share with us the challenges ahead with being Campaign Co-Chairs?

Dave: There is so much competition for charitable donations now and the environment has changed quite a bit in the past year: big, local workplaces are struggling to give as much, many firms have downsized their workforce, and reduced local media attention on the campaign have created challenges. Today, there is less unknown than there was a year ago, and many individuals and companies are doing better, so hopefully that will help with donations. For the campaign, we are looking forward to increasing the media visibility of the campaign and visiting the many workplace accounts in the area. We are also excited to work more closely with Maria and her staff in the upcoming year, and to be brought into the top 20 accounts.

Why do you feel it is important for people to give back to their community?

Dave: We’re all responsible to help each other. We’re all one world, one earth. Whatever happens to the weakest of us, affects all of us. So, we all have a responsibility to make this a better world. Everybody can make it better in some way, through their time or their money, but it’s important that we give something back. I’ve always been very impressed with how United Way takes care of our community. Even with something as simple as the VITA program. If you can save someone money, put money in their pocket – that’s a huge deal. It’s not only having their income tax filed for free, but they may have deductions they are not even aware are available. That is huge. According to the recent Protecting Stark’s Future: A Call to Coordinate Child Poverty Strategies, Canton has one of the highest populations of Childhood Poverty and through many of their health, education and financial stability programs, United Way is addressing that issue as well.

Laura: United Way is deeply involved in our community. One of the many things they focus on is basic needs, for example, housing. Through 211, Emergency Assistance and last year, the COVID-19 Impact Fund, they helped make sure people’s rent and mortgages were paid so people have a safe place to reside during the pandemic. Another need they focus on is education. CARE Team is a collaborative program available in Stark and Carroll Counties. It offers support and intervention for any youth facing non-academic barriers in school. I really like CARE Team because I think there’s just so many obstacles to kids learning and I believe it needs to be a holistic approach. I also really appreciate how the program individualizes the help families receive according to their specific needs.

Any final thoughts?

Dave: Back in 1982, I went to visit with the CEO of a large company in the area. Between the company gift and employees’ donations, they contributed significantly to United Way. This individual sat me down and said, “Dave, United Way’s important. The money you give goes directly to help people in need. If you and I don’t give, who will?” I walked out and I said, he’s right. We all have a moral obligation to give if we are able. Give money or time or effort to support the people. United Way is here to support people in need. Let’s support them.

Laura: We are excited to help spread the word about what United Way does in Stark and Carroll Counties with the help of donors.

Dave and Laura have a very busy household with four children in high school and college.