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United Way agencies working to make up for lost service

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. -- Two United Way agencies are preparing to pick up the slack for areas in two states previously served by the United Way of the Virginias.

According to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, the United Way of Southern West Virginia will serve Mercer and McDowell counties. In Virginia, the United Way Virginia Highlands will serve Bland, Buchanan and Tazewell counties.

United Way Worldwide is severing ties with the United Way of the Virginias after that organization failed to file the paperwork to keep its tax-exempt status.

"We were five counties before, and we're seven counties now," Margaret O'Neal, executive director of the United Way of Southern West Virginia, said at a recent meeting of officials from United Way agencies and human service organizations to discuss the situation. "We're here to help. We're here to find out what your needs are."

The Mercer County 4-H is one of the organizations that has depended on funding from the United Way of the Virginias. Member Brenda Pruett said if the group loses its $8,000 annual allotment, its programs will suffer and members will have to raise money elsewhere.

O'Neal said a fundraising campaign is being planned for 2014. Another goal is to determine the needs of the new member organizations, what funding is needed to keep them in operation, and whether an earlier fundraising campaign is necessary.

The United Way's primary focus is to help people obtain shelter, clothes and food.

"We are very much looking forward to serving this community: Bland County, Tazewell County, Buchanan County," said Travis Staton, chief executive officer of the United Way Virginia Highlands. "We have been working very hard in the last few days and weeks on what our strategic approach is going to be."


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