Community generosity helping nonprofits meet rising demand

06/17/2024

by Holly Riddle

Just as Happy Valley’s entrepreneurs benefit from a robust support system, a strong network of nonprofits, supported by generous donors and volunteers, helps to fill gaps in areas of need for residents in the community. 

Nowhere is Happy Valley’s nonprofit landscape represented better than during the annual Centre Gives event. Hosted by Centre Foundation, Centre Gives is a 36-hour fundraising drive — and, this year, it set a record, raising $2.49 million with more than 16,000 community donations.  

Centre Gives Facebook

To find out more about how community support is helping local nonprofits advance their missions and make Happy Valley a better place to live, work and play, we spoke with a few of the organizations that received the most individual donations during Centre Gives, as well as Centre County United Way, which distributes funds to a range of nonprofits that help ensure the community’s needs are met.

“We’re all in this together” 

“The costs of goods and services have increased nationwide, leaving fewer funds available for donations. We are deeply grateful to our community for its unwavering support, especially during times of economic challenge when public library usage typically rises,” said Kim Patti, head of advancement services at Schlow Centre Region Library. “This support demonstrates the value our community places on the resources and programs provided by the Schlow Centre Region Library. It also speaks to the community-oriented, locally focused priorities of many philanthropists in our area.”

Schlow Centre Region Library Facebook

The Schlow Library Foundation, which supports Schlow Centre Region Library, received the overall most individual donations during the 2024 Centre Gives event, raising more than $84,000 thanks to more than 600 donors. 

“Donors and patrons often praise the Schlow Library and recognize its significance as a welcoming and freely accessible space for everyone in our community. The library staff witness this dedication from the community daily, through the many items checked out by patrons, totaling over 753,000 items per year, and the community's attendance at over 700 yearly programs,” added Patti. “Schlow Centre Region Library is often referred to as our community's ‘living room.’ It is a safe space where everyone is welcome, providing a connecting point in our community for people to engage with each other.” 

Another organization that specializes in providing a “safe space,” is Centre Safe, formerly Centre County Women’s Resource Center which finished in the Top 10 in unique donors in Centre Gives, raising more than $50,000. The organization provides resources to victims and survivors of sexual and domestic violence.  

According to Jennifer Pencek, executive director,

“I feel like we are very blessed to be in Centre County. The people here do seem to greatly value and support area nonprofits,

as seen recently with the fantastic results of Centre Gives. We are all in this together — without our community, we wouldn't be able to do the work we do and make a difference in our community. ” 

She added, “Level grant funding but rising expenses means we often navigate funding gaps, like any nonprofit, and have to make up that funding elsewhere, often through fundraising and development efforts. If our community closed doors to us, we simply would have a challenging time making up that gap and would have to face a reduction in services and staff. Luckily, we haven't had to face that and that is because of Centre Countians!” 

It's not just nonprofits that focus on Centre County’s human residents that rely on and serve the community, though. Animal shelter Centre County PAWS ranked second during Centre Gives for both number of unique donors and funds raised, nearing $97,000 — and, just like Schlow Centre Region Library, PAWS noted that it’s likewise seen an increase in demand as of late.  

“As community members struggle with food insecurity, paying bills, trying to find affordable housing and rising costs, nonprofits are increasingly in demand to provide their services. This, of course, requires an increase in funding to provide those services, which can be very hard to come by. At Centre County PAWS specifically, when people can’t feed their families or lose their homes, people make the very difficult choice to surrender their pets,” explained Director of Development Christine Faust.  

Centre County Paws Facebook

“Centre County PAWS receives no federal, state or local funding to support the [one thousand] animals in our care each year. We rely on the generosity of our community and animal lovers, as individual gifts are the biggest source of support for PAWS,” Faust noted.  

At Centre County United Way, communications coordinator Megan Evans similarly pointed out increased needs for support, both from community members and the nonprofits that United Way helps fund. However, Evans is also in the unique position to see how the broader Happy Valley community responds to these needs not just during special annual events like Centre Gives, but all year-round, through both donations and volunteer efforts.  

She said, “We see how much people value area nonprofits every day! We are a fundraising organization, so we see the dollars being donated. We also organize the largest community service event in Centre County — Day of Caring — and we see over a thousand people every fall who spend the day doing projects for nonprofit organizations, so they can focus on helping our neighbors.” 

To learn more about Happy Valley’s expansive nonprofit resources, visit the Centre County United Way or Centre Gives websites. 

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