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United Way officials make commitment to Lower Valley communities

Nearly two years ago United Way of Yakima and Kittitas counties merged together forming United Way of Central Washington.

It was then executives, employees and volunteers began evaluating its presence among certain areas.

The idea was to make sure each area didn't feel excluded within the United Way family.

As a result, "G2MOS" was formed. The acronym stands for United Way's commitment to a presence in the cities of Granger, Grandview, Mabton, Outlook and Sunnyside.

The "Lower Valley" is a common term used among Yakima County residents to describe the cities aforementioned. But United Way wanted to be more specific.

"People in these areas don't say they are from the Lower Valley, they say they are from the town they live in," United Way Executive Vice President John Warren said.

Since its formation, United Way of Central Washington has enlisted local volunteer help for campaign fundraisers and those same volunteers, doubling as an advisory committee help oversee where donations are distributed.

Warren says last year's fundraising campaign was the most successful in nearly a decade, with more than five times the amount of volunteers to help out.

"This effort is causing United Way to be more clear about who we serve," he added.

Since the effort has been underway, United Way has helped fund and connect local non-profit agencies such as the Sunnyside Ministerial Food Bank, the Mabton Food Bank and many others.

To further its commitment, United Way has also begun partnering with local school leadership groups, such as Mabton High School leadership students.

Warren began meeting with Mabton Superintendent Minerva Morales. She directed him to high school vice principal Sue Sartain, whom Warren says has a heart to see Mabton thrive.

The initial idea was to organize a food drive for the local food bank. But the idea extended further, to create an ongoing leadership opportunity for students.

"The drive is completely student generated," Warren added.

United Way simply is providing students with resources and training.

In addition, Warren says he approached several Mabton businesses asking them to help out the cause.

Most were eager to join in, offering their place of business for a drop-off point for the food drive, or offering up employee and company participation in the drive.

"I think this project will give (Mabton residents) a higher sense of community pride because more people are working together for a common good," Warren said.

In addition, United Way is planning future programs with other "G2MOS" areas, along with a movie in the park in Grandview this coming summer season.

For more information about United Way of Central Washington's involvement in Lower Valley communities, visit www.uwcw.org.

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