When we asked United Way Services of Geauga County Board Chair, Karen Cronin, what she loves most about Geauga County, she did not skip a beat in her response. “The strong sense of pride and community as well as the beauty of very different parts of the county,” she said. And she isn’t wrong. Geauga County offers a perfect blend of beautiful countryside, interesting culture, captivating history, and unique shopping – it really is a fantastic place to live!

And part of that sense of pride comes from how Geauga neighbors respond to those who need our help. Karen has been a supporter of United Way from day one. “I have supported UWSGC first and simply, because I have been a supporter of United Way for many years across many states.  Secondly, because I was asked to get involved at a time when I needed to fill a void for myself.  After moving to Northeast Ohio nine years ago, I didn’t necessarily notice the word “Services” that showed up in United Way’s name and to be honest, I didn’t fully understand it initially.  The more I learned, the more I became intrigued by the mission and focus of United Way Services of Geauga County and how it fit the needs of our area.”

By serving on the UWSGC Board and now as Board Chair, Karen has had the opportunity to learn more about the needs of our neighbors.

Geauga County may not be as populated as surrounding counties and we may not be ‘inner city’ but the challenges are still very real and not that different from other areas. For example, people struggle with food insecurity, unemployment, underemployment, mental health issues and school readiness similar to those living in more metropolitan areas, however, residents of Geauga County often do not have the same access to public transportation to help them obtain the needed services, so the delivery model has to be different to ensure access.

Last year alone, United Way’s 2-1-1 HelpLink took an average of 184 calls/chats per month – with the top three needs in Geauga County unsurprisingly being food, housing/shelter and utility assistance. No one in our county should go without food or a warm place to call home, and at United Way, and with Karen’s help, we are here to make sure that doesn’t happen.

To Karen, philanthropy “is broader than the traditional definition of financially supporting others’ well-being. As Shirley Chisolm once said, “service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”  That ‘rent’ can come in many forms and it is up to each of us to determine how we ‘pay’ based on what we have, what we can do and what else we can offer.” And she has some advice to those who wish to make a difference but may not know how. “Know that impact doesn’t have to be grandiose; it just needs to be something personal and meaningful to you. Find something that is important to you or stirs something inside of you and then ask how you can help! There are many ways people can get involved and, trust me, special talent is not required in every situation (thank goodness)!  Of course, a financial contribution of any size is always appreciated too.”

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