It's a sign of the times.
Mike Hostovich, executive director of the United Fund of Warren County, told attendees at the annual kick-off breakfast for the fund's Torchlight Campaign on Thursday he can always tell when it's time to hold the event. It comes at the time of year when the leaves change, the wind gets colder and the campaign's sign is posted outside the Warren post office.
Now in his 10th year as executive director, Hostovich said he always tries to be original. But, he said while going over past presentations, he came to a revelation.
Times Observer photo by Colin Kyler
Mike Hostovich opens the curtain on this year’s Torchlight Campaign.
"I said, 'To heck with it,'" Hostovich said. "Why do I need to be original when I've got Sonia Probst and Gary Lester?"
Those two are returning for another year of co-chairing the event. Every year, Lester said, they marvel over the enthusiasm displayed by contributors and at how the event gets accomplished.
Years ago, Lester said, he went every week to a bar between Sugar Grove and Busti, N.Y., for bluegrass night. Audience members played along with the band and sometimes got invited to go on stage.
Each time, Lester said, he would decline to go up there, worried he wasn't good enough.
"One night they told me, 'Sometimes enthusiasm is more important than talent,'" Lester said. "I look around this room and I see a lot of both."
People working at the agencies which receive money from the United Fund go to work each day to serve the community. Without them, Probst said, she would hate to see what the area would look like.
Already, Hostovich said the campaign received a $3,500 contribution from The FirstEnergy Foundation, which also co-sponsored the breakfast with the United Fund. Another early-bird donation cam from the PNC Foundation in the amount of $12,000.
For a few years, Hostovich said he has been advised by Whirley-DrinkWorks! President Lincoln Sokolski about a program in Pittsburgh grocery stores where customers can add to their purchase a donation to the United Way of Allegheny County. During the months of October, November and December, Warren Shurfine and Thorne's Bi-Lo of Warren will participate in a similar promotion for the United Fund of Warren County.
This year's campaign theme is "Help us..help them...smile." It has a goal of raising $645,000.