PPL Corp., United Way launch Housing Hero campaign

The Housing Hero campaign is launched at the Sixth Street Shelter in Allentown. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

Housing has become increasingly unaffordable for many in the Lehigh Valley, but now there is an effort to help. 

The United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley and PPL Corp. have announced an initiative to increase awareness and funding around the region’s growing housing crisis.  

During an event at Sixth Street Shelter in Allentown, they officially kicked off Be a Housing Hero as an added initiative to United Way’s 2022 campaign.  

In support of PPL’s United Way campaign, the PPL Foundation has committed up to $500,000 this year through a matching program for all new or increased campaign contributions.  

The funds will go directly to United Way’s work in the community to aid neighbors and families experiencing housing insecurity.  

“PPL Foundation’s pledge of up to $500,000 will provide support for thousands of people who are experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity right here in the communities we serve,” said Vince Sorgi, CEO and president of PPL Corporation and co-chair of the 2022 UWGLV campaign. “By partnering with United Way, we know that these funds will be invested into organizations like Sixth Street Shelter and others in the community whose missions align with addressing housing insecurity through prevention and intervention.” 

Additionally, PPL Foundation’s gift will apply to all new or increased participation in corporate campaigns or online donations made to unitedwayglv.org/housinghero.  

“Many people in the Greater Lehigh Valley are only one paycheck or emergency away from hunger or homelessness,” reported Dawn Godshall, executive director of Community Action Lehigh Valley. “Through the PPL Foundation’s commitment, Community Action’s Sixth Street Shelter, with vital assistance from United Way, can invest in more solutions to help the ever-growing need in our area.”  

The housing crisis in our community has increased due to many factors, including the past two years’ health and economic crises, she said.  

The Lehigh Valley’s most recent homeless reports depict a 36% increase in people experiencing homelessness in the region since 2020, including 50% more families with children and almost twice as many veterans. About 122,000 families (or 44%) are also currently experiencing serious financial instability and are forced to make difficult decisions daily, such as whether to buy groceries or pay rent. 

 “There is no doubt that the nationwide housing crisis is being felt right here in our communities,” said Sorgi. “With thousands of people at risk of homelessness or eviction, PPL Foundation is honored to help those impacted by this situation.” 

Bethlehem attorney to chair United Way board

Dorota Gasienica-Kozak –

Bethlehem Attorney Dorota Gasienica-Kozak, a partner in King, Spry, Herman, Freund & Faul LLC and chair of the Adoption/Assisted Reproductive Technology practice section, has been named chair of United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley (UWGLV) Board of Directors.  

As board chair, Kozak will volunteer her leadership and expertise to help UWGLV grow and strengthen its service to the community.  

“In my legal practice, we work to help build and protect families, so I see every day how powerful we can be when we work together. I am honored to be serving on the UWGLV board at a time when our community needs us most,” said Kozak. “UNITED, we can come back stronger than ever.”  

She said she felt that the full and staggering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are just becoming known: the dramatic learning losses impacting our children, the long-term effects of food instability, increasing risks of eviction or foreclosure and a mental health crisis shaking our families, our children and our older adults.  

“Addressing these challenges will take bold action and UNITED solutions,” said David Lewis, president, UWGLV. “We’re fortunate to have Dorota’s leadership and vision as we continue to meet the increased needs of our children, families and older adults.”   

In addition to practicing in the areas of Family Law and Estate Planning at KingSpry, Kozak is the past chair of the board of governors for the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.  

She was a Girl Scouts Take the Lead honoree in 2018, a “YWCA Woman of the Year” for 2014, and in 2016, she was named a Woman of Influence by Lehigh Valley Business.  

A graduate of the Leadership Lehigh Valley program, Kozak is a former member of the board and was the 2012 Leadership Lehigh Valley Alumni of the Year. She has been named a Rising Star honoree by Super Lawyer Magazine and Philadelphia Magazine. 

More than 500 volunteers participate in Day of Caring

United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley/Marco Calderon Photography

More than 500 volunteers from area companies worked to complete community service projects at 40 area nonprofits during the 29th United Way Day of Caring in the Lehigh Valley on Thursday.  

“Today is a great day to live, work and give in the Greater Lehigh Valley. You could feel the LIVE UNITED spirit in every corner of the community. I’m grateful to and inspired by the hundreds of people who rolled up their sleeves and invested their talent and energy in serving our community during Day of Caring,” said David Lewis, president of the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley.  

United Way kicks off its annual campaign with Day of Caring, which is the largest single day volunteer effort in the community.  

“This is just the beginning. Day of Caring gives volunteers and donors the opportunity to see their impact in action. By working together with United Way, we can achieve so much more, and we encourage everyone to get involved and help in any way they can,” said ASR Media Productions President Ashley Russo, who is co-chairing the United Way campaign with her husbandJoseph Russo as well as PPL President and CEO Vince Sorgi and his wife Michelle.  

In the Greater Lehigh Valley, 500 participants from 32 companies and organizations contributed more than 2,800 hours of service, valued at over $78,500, to more than 50 nonprofits in Lehigh and Northampton and counties. Some Day of Caring projects included the painting and refreshing of the Salvation Army Easton Corps with Crayola; organizing and painting Community School spaces at Central Elementary School in Allentown with City Center Allentown and updating the homeless facility at Easton Area Neighborhood Center with Martin Guitar Co. 

United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley names 2022 campaign chairs

United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley 2022 Campaign Chairs (l to r), Joe and Ashley Russo, Michelle and Vince Sorgi. PHOTO/MARCO CALDERON –

Vince Sorgi, president and CEO of PPL Corporation, and Ashley Russo, president and owner of ASR Media Productions, have been named United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley’s campaign chairs.  

The two business leaders will oversee the campaign alongside their spouses, Michelle Sorgi and Joe Russo. 

Sorgi and Russo have both been actively involved with the United Way.  

Both have held the role of Tocqueville cabinet chair and in 2018, led the donor group together.  

Russo has been an active board member since 2014. A dedicated partner of UWGLV, 

Under Sorgi’s leadership, PPL has offered a dollar-for-dollar employee campaign match since 2017. In 2021, the organization’s annual campaign surpassed $5 million.  

 “Vince and Ashley have always sought ways to make a difference in our community,” said David Lewis, UWGLV president. “Along with Michelle and Joe, we look forward to this dynamic group connecting with our donors and helping to ensure United Way can continue to make a significant regional impact.”  

Sorgi commented on the campaign. 

“Michelle and I are honored to co-chair this year’s campaign with the Russos following the record-breaking effort led by Laurie Hackett and Air Products in 2021,” Sorgi said. “Despite the almost $20 million that was raised last year, we know that only about half the need in our community is being met, and so our goal this year is to once again raise more money than ever before to help provide the needed resources to strengthen our communities.” 

Russo noted that partnering as co-chairs is a unique opportunity.  

“This is the first year that our United Way has four co-chairs,” Russo said. ” Vince, Michelle, Joe, and I are dedicated to the success of this year’s campaign and will work together to help ensure a community where every person belongs and every person thrives. We are honored to serve alongside an organization making a remarkable impact on education, healthy aging, and community stability.” 

United Way’s 2022 annual campaign runs through March 31, 2023. 


United Way reports record 2021 campaign fundraising

Laurie Gostley Hackett, Air Products director of community relations and philanthropy, chaired the annual campaign. PHOTO/FILE –

More than 20,000 donors and partners united to raise a record-breaking $19,741,940 during United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley’s annual fundraising campaign.  

Contributions will provide critical services in the areas of education, healthy aging and community stability.  

“Many in our community are still struggling with the devastating effects of the pandemic. More than ever, our families, our kids and our older adults need help to meet some very basic needs like healthy food, a safe and warm place to live and economic security. We came together like the true community that we are,” said Laurie Gostley Hackett, Air Products director of community relations and philanthropy, who chaired the annual campaign on behalf of Air Products.  

With an increasing number of area residents experiencing food insecurity, Air Products and United Way partnered to create the Air Products Fresh Food Promise. In honor of every new donor to United Way, Air Products Foundation made an additional contribution to provide fresh, healthy food for local families.  

As a result, over 9,000 more donors joined the cause.  

“Because of caring supporters, up to 45,000 people will have access to healthy and nutritious food; more than 20,000 people will receive emergency services such as housing and disaster relief; almost 30,000 students will have better opportunities to succeed in school,” said David Lewis, president of the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley.  

“We are grateful for each and every person who stepped up to become part of the solution, and we’d especially like to thank Laurie Gostley Hackett and Air Products for leading this community campaign,” added Lewis. 

This is the 12th annual consecutive year of growth for the campaign. 

United Way announced the results today during Celebration of Caring, presented by Crayola. The event celebrates and honors organizations and individuals who have made a significant impact in the community in partnership with United Way.  

United Way to honor Crayola for campaign contributions

United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley plans to honor Crayola of Easton with this year’s PPL LIVE UNITED Award.  

The award will be presented at United Way Celebration of Caring on Wednesday, April 13, to recognize the impact donors, volunteers and partners made throughout the year. 

 “The Greater Lehigh Valley came together to build a stronger community. Celebration of Caring recognizes the collective impact of United Way donors, volunteers and partners,” said United Way Campaign Chair Laurie Hackett, Air Products director of community relations and philanthropy. 

The event, which is also presented by Crayola, celebrates and honors organizations and individuals who have made a significant impact in the community in partnership with United Way. 

The PPL LIVE UNITED Award is the organization’s highest award. It is presented to an organization or company whose engagement in the Lehigh Valley community results in a significant contribution toward improving quality of life for those in need.  

Under President and Chief Executive Officer Rich Wuerthele’s leadership, Crayola contributed more than $1 million during its recent United Way campaign, representing the largest corporate gift and most employee donations in the company’s history. 

Crayola also had a 19% increase in the number of employee donors and utilized creative, innovative ways to motivate giving. 

 “The PPL LIVE UNITED Award is our organization’s highest honor, and Crayola continues to show up as one of our most dedicated partners. They exemplify what it means to ‘LIVE UNITED’ in their commitment to giving back and making a true impact in our community,” said David Lewis, president of UWGLV. 

Just Born of Bethlehem is also being honored at the event. 

It will receive the Campaign Chair’s Award, which is presented to a company that has demonstrated leadership and innovation in conducting its United Way campaign and an ability to increase awareness throughout the Lehigh Valley. 



Groups partner to address staffing needs in child care industry

The United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley is getting involved in a statewide effort to address the worker shortage crisis in the child care industry. 

According to the agency, connecting individuals to employment has proven difficult throughout recent months, and the child care industry is no exception. A recent survey reports that nearly 100 classrooms are closed in the Greater Lehigh Valley and over 92% of programs have a staffing shortage. 

“With a staffing crisis greatly affecting our child care sector, access to high quality early learning and child care opportunities are decreasing for families. We are taking action to connect job seekers to open opportunities available,” stated Akshara Vivekananthan, director of school readiness for the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley. 

Across the state of Pennsylvania, child care providers have faced serious challenges in staffing their facilities, which prevents them from providing the quality care they strive to maintain.  

In response to these shortages, hundreds of child care programs from across Pennsylvania are coordinating Child Care Hiring Days for PA from March 29 through March 31. 

United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley has partnered with PennAEYC, Lehigh Carbon Community College, Greater Valley YMCA and The Children’s Center to ensure that Lehigh Valley child care organizations have a presence and to raise local awareness of the statewide staffing shortages. 

 “When child care programs can’t open classrooms or open at all due to staffing issues, it makes it challenging for parents to work and ultimately impacts business productivity and the overall economy,” said Jen DeBell, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children, a statewide, non-profit membership organization that advocates for high-quality early care and education opportunities for children and families and appropriate compensation and support for the professionals that provide these programs. 

Over these three days, participating programs will host walk-in hiring events, featuring on-the-spot interviews at their locations. Many locations will be offering competitive salaries and benefits, signing bonuses, tuition reimbursement, continuing education and on-the-job training. 

“In a moment of truth, we know this hiring event is a temporary solution. We are counting on our legislators to save child care as we need continued investments so all children have equitable access to a healthy start,” Vivekananthan added. 

 This state-wide hiring event aims to simplify the job search and hiring process for job seekers, help participating programs reach potential applicants and promote the rewards of working in early childhood education.  

Interested programs can learn how to participate with the Child Care Hiring Days for PA by visiting ECEhire.com or emailing Akshara Vivekananthan at [email protected]. 

Job seekers can view the entire list of careers and locations performing interviews during the Child Care Hiring Event on ECEhire.com. 


Air Products makes $500K donation to United Way food access programs

Air Products Foundation donates $500,000 to the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley for food security programs. PHOTO/Danielle Stokes, United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley –

The Air Products Foundation has announced a gift of $500,000 to United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley to expand education and food access programs with the organization’s community partners. 

“The data is clear that access to healthy food and quality mental health and educational services, remain significant challenges for many of our community’s children and families. Air Products is proud to be a part of the solution to these challenges with our continued partnership with United Way,” said Simon Moore, Air Products’ vice president of investor relations, government relations and sustainability and president of the Air Products Foundation.

According to Feeding America, one in 10 Lehigh Valley residents face food insecurity, including one in six children. 

 Local food pantries supported by United Way served approximately 45,000 people last year, an 88% increase since the pandemic started.  

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruptions to the lives and education of Lehigh Valley students, resulting in what the U.S. Surgeon General has described as a national “youth mental health crisis.” 

 “Our community has great needs, and our community partners have adapted and innovated to meet those growing and changing needs. This support will help to launch three new community initiatives that will ultimately make our students and families healthier, safer and more successful,” said Laurie Gostley Hackett, Air Products’ director of community relations and philanthropy, who chaired the annual United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley campaign. 

The $500,000 contribution, which will be distributed over three years, was announced in Easton and will support the nonprofit Greater Easton Development Partnership’s West Ward Market.  

In year one, the funding will support the creation of the outdoor market located near 12th and Northampton streets as well as provide additional support for students at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Bethlehem Area School District and expand food access in partnership with Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley. 

The West Ward Market, run by the West Ward Community Initiative and Easton Market District, which are both programs of GEDP, will launch this summer and increase neighborhood access to fresh food and community programming. 

The Air Products Foundation’s support will also meet critical needs of students in the Bethlehem Area School District. Air Products is the Community School partner at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, in partnership with United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley and Moravian University. Community Schools improve student outcomes by transforming high-poverty public schools into resource hubs that offer a range of support and opportunities to children, families and the surrounding neighborhood. 

 Funding will also support a new transportation vehicle for the food pantry program at Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley. During the pandemic, the food pantry program distributed 62,000 pounds of food to clients and delivered almost 20,000 pounds of foods to the homes of 52 seniors isolating and following safer-at-home orders.  



Laura McHugh to receive 2021 Athena Award

Laura McHugh –

Laura McHugh, associate vice president of marketing & communications for the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, will be this year’s recipient of the Athena Award from the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce Women’s Business Council. 

The award, which has been given out each year since 1981, recognizes women leaders in the community, with the goal of inspiring women to achieve their full potential. 

Before her current role with the United Way, McHugh was working in broadcast television for more than 15 years for both commercial and public television stations. She has also worked as an adjunct professor of communications for Cedar Crest College. 

Also this year, Natasha Ljuljic, HR specialist for talent & diversity, inclusion and belonging at Air Products, is being honored with the Athena Young Professional Award. 

Ljuljic is responsible for managing the diversity, inclusion and belonging initiatives for Air Products, globally. She also serves on a number of boards for Lehigh Valley nonprofits including the Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites, Valley Youth House and Rising Tide. 

The Athena Organizational Award will be presented to the Olympus Corp. of the Americas in Center Valley. 

The company employs more than 5,500 people throughout North and South America. 

This year’s Athena Awards will be held Oct. 11 at the Samuels Theater at Cedar Crest College. 

United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley volunteers return with Day of Caring

The annual Day of Caring returned this week for the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley.  

Working with the Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley, more than 500 volunteers representing 38 local companies volunteered at nonprofits in the region, performing tasks ranging from power washing and landscaping to painting and gathering supplies. 

“Our community has needs, and when we support United Way, we all become part of the solution. Today, we could give back by volunteering our time, and we encourage everyone to continue to get involved and help in any way they can,” said United Way campaign chair Laurie Gostley Hackett of Air Products. 

It was the return of the annual event that was mostly sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic last year, and is the traditional start of the organization’s fundraising campaign. 

It is the largest single day volunteering event in the Lehigh Valley each year. 

“You could feel the LIVE UNITED spirit in every corner of the Greater Lehigh Valley today. I’m grateful to and inspired by the hundreds of people who rolled up their sleeves and invested their talent and energy in serving our community during Day of Caring,” said David Lewis, president, United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley. 

Participants were mostly volunteers from 38 local companies and organizations and contributed $80,000 in volunteer hours to various projects at several area nonprofits in Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon Counties.  

Some project examples included:  

  • Painting murals and adding motivational statements to the pathways leading intoPaxinosaElementary School in Easton with Crayola  
  • Re-organizing the pantry and supply room at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School with Air Products
  • Landscaping and sprucing up the grounds at Friends of Johnstone with PPL
  • Organizing and beautifying inside and out of Central Elementary School with City Center Allentown
  • Completing a makeover for the student relaxation room at Raub Middle School with St. Luke’s University Health Network.

“Today’s volunteers should know that together they made a huge impact on our nonprofits and made a real difference for a lot of people who rely on them,” said Karen Daly Smith, CEO, Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley.