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Date: September 13, 2018 8:30AM
For Immediate Release

United Way of Pennsylvania Presents Keystone Spirit of the United Way Award to Erie County Resident Thomas B. Hagen

Harrisburg, PA – United Way of Pennsylvania presented its highest annual award, the Keystone Spirit of United Way award, to Erie County resident Thomas B. Hagen at a celebration hosted by Erie Insurance on September 12, 2018.
The Keystone Spirit of United Way Award was created by the United Way of Pennsylvania to recognize exceptional and sustained volunteer and philanthropic leadership. The criteria for selection of an honoree reflect a philanthropic impact and personal commitment of time and talents reaching across community borders to highlight the interdependence and opportunities of the United Way network across Pennsylvania. The winner shows exceptional and sustained engagement with United Way in their own community, personal commitment to the voluntary system of human services as demonstrated by gifts of time and financial resources, with United Way being the main focus of his or her efforts, and a quality of performance that inspires others to serve.
“Mr. Hagen’s impact in Erie County has been far-reaching, from fighting against poverty and for affordable housing, to mentoring young leaders. But he has always been steadfast in his commitment to investing in the community through United Way. This is what made him stand out in a very impressive field of nominees,” Kristen Rotz, President of United Way of Pennsylvania, said.
United Way of Pennsylvania (UWP) presented the award at an event hosted by Erie Insurance Company on September 12, 2018 in Erie, PA. Timothy NeCastro, CEO of Erie Insurance, introduced Thomas Hagen to the assembled crowd and gave an overview of his achievements.
“Tom is a friend and a mentor,” said NeCastro. “The impact of his leadership extends beyond our company, our community and our state. Through his selfless giving of time, talent and philanthropic support, Tom has lifted the lives of so many and his work is leaving an indelible mark that will have influence far into the future.”
Hagen was nominated for this award by United Way of Erie County President Bill Jackson, who said, “Tom started as a United Way campaign volunteer decades ago and as he rose in the ranks of leadership, he never stopped being a tireless ambassador and advocate for United Way. As Chairman of the Boards of both Erie Insurance Group, where he is a former CEO, and Custom Group Industries, he has promoted a spirit of giving to United Way as part of the corporate social responsibility for these companies.”
The Honorable Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf sent his congratulations, stating, “Tom’s passion and commitment to the United Way is improving the lives of thousands of his neighbors, and it is making Erie County stronger. As a member of the Tocqueville Society of United Way of York County, I am proud to join the United Way of Pennsylvania in honoring Tom for his generosity and leadership.”
Bio of Thomas B. Hagen, 2018 Keystone Spirit of United Way Award Winner
Thomas B. Hagen is the current Chairman of the Board of Erie Insurance Group. He began his career at Erie Insurance as a part-time file clerk in 1953 and retired 40 years later as Chairman and CEO. Erie Insurance is the largest employer and the only Fortune 500 Company headquartered in Erie County. He is also Chairman of the Board of Custom Group Industries, the collective name for the three Erie, Pennsylvania based manufacturing companies in which he has had an ownership interest since 1997: Custom Engineering Co., Venango Machine Company and Lamjen, Inc.
Hagen is a Tocqueville Society member from United Way of Erie County and was awarded the prestigious Keystone Spirit of United Way Award for his generosity, advocacy and commitment to improving the lives of Pennsylvania residents.
Hagen and his late wife, Susan, have been Tocqueville Society members since 1992. Tom has been a tireless ambassador and advocate for United Way for decades. As Chairman of the Boards of both Erie Insurance Group and Custom Group Industries, he has promoted a spirit of giving to United Way as part of the corporate social responsibility for these companies.
Hagen began volunteering in the annual United Way Campaign over 50 years ago and since then has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to the United Way and its work to improve lives.
Hagen has volunteered to speak to United Way’s Young Leaders Society members about his belief in United Way’s mission and encouraged others to support United Way’s work. He has helped establish relationships between United Way representatives and numerous community leaders over the years, serving as an invaluable resource to grow United Way’s network of support throughout the region.
Hagen has received numerous honors for his tireless volunteerism, including the naming of the Thomas B. Hagen History Center, Pennsylvania Governor’s Patron of the Arts Award, and the United Way of Erie County Tocqueville Award for community services. He was recently honored by Behrend College with its highest award, the Behrend Medallion, and by the Pennsylvania Society naming him a Distinguished Citizen of the Commonwealth. And, most recently, Hagen was named the 2018 recipient of The Erie Community Foundation’s Edward C. Doll Community Service Award.
A retired U.S. Navy Captain, Hagen served on active duty during the Cold War as Supply Officer of the Atlantic Fleet destroyer USS Harwood and on Reserve duty with the logistics staff of the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet for a total of 30 years of service.
Born in Buffalo, NY, Hagen was raised in Erie, where he attended public schools and graduated from Strong Vincent High School. Hagen attended Penn State Erie, The Behrend College and graduated in 1957 with a BS Degree in Business Administration (Insurance) from The Ohio State University, where he was a Griffith Scholar, President of the Insurance Society and Treasurer of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity.
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania conferred on Hagen the honorary degree of Doctor of Public Service in 1996 “In recognition of [his] leadership in the cause of civic and social responsibility…” and Mercyhurst University conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in 2016.
In 2015, Hagen established the Susan Hirt Hagen Fund for Transformational Philanthropy at The Erie Community Foundation with a $10 million gift on behalf of the Hagen family in memory of his wife, Susan Hirt Hagen. In 2016, this Fund granted $1.5 million to support a joint effort of United Way of Erie County and Erie’s Public Schools to increase access to coordinated health, social services and after-school programming by utilizing the nationally-renowned “Community Schools” strategy.

Hagen, with his late wife Susan who was a prominent community leader, is the parent of two grown children and three grandchildren.

Photo featuring (left to right) Kristen Rotz, President of United Way of Pennsylvania, Thomas B. Hagen, Award Recipient, Tim NeCastro, CEO of Erie Insurance, and Bill Jackson, President of United Way of Erie County. The painting in the foreground is an original of Tom Panei, a Pennsylvania Artist, that was presented to Thomas Hagen. Susan Hirt Hagen, Thomas Hagen's late wife, is featured in a portrait in the background. For full version of photo, click here

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DATE:  SEPTEMBER 4, 2018 1:00PM


Op-Ed: SNAP not only feeds the hungry, it nourishes the economy

By Alex Baloga and Kristen Rotz

September is National Family Meals Month, a nationwide event designed to highlight the benefits of family meals and challenge us all to pledge one more meal at home per week with our families from items purchased from the grocery store. 
But, in Pennsylvania and across the country, there are still millions of families that struggle with hunger. According to Feeding America, more than 1.5 million people in Pennsylvania are food insecure, and of them, more than 452,000 children. 
This shouldn’t happen, but it does. The Keystone State is a global leader in agriculture and food production with more than 57,000 farms and $7.4 billion in agricultural products sold. 
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP, is the country’s most effective anti-hunger program, helping one in eight Americans afford a basic diet. Not only does the program provide quality food for families and keep citizens out of poverty, it also benefits food retailers, their employees and families, and the economy as a whole. 
The 2018 farm bill, currently being negotiated by Congress, could lead to many vulnerable SNAP recipients losing benefits or having them reduced, and we can’t afford to have that happen. 
SNAP stimulates the economy. Consider this: According to Moody’s Analytics, even in a weak economy, each dollar in SNAP benefits generates $1.70 in economic activity. SNAP enrollment is also counter-cyclical, expanding when the economy weakens and contracting when the economy recovers, which makes this program one of the country’s most responsive.  
SNAP benefits are distributed to households through an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card, which can be used to purchase food at any of the 10,400 retail locations in Pennsylvania. Twenty-seven percent of these retailers are in rural areas and 73 percent are in urban areas. 
Pennsylvania food merchants and retailers depend on the income generated from these purchases. It helps them continue to provide the lowest prices possible, and employment for thousands of individuals. 
In 2017, SNAP recipients in Pennsylvania collectively received $2.67 billion in benefits. This amounts to just $121 a month or $1.32 per person, per meal. 
Each billion cut in SNAP, eliminates 13,718 jobs in grocery and other food-related industries.  
In addition, SNAP helps keep children fed and leads to academic success. A child who does not get enough to eat on a regular basis can experience delays in brain development and hamper the child’s ability to learn, according to the organization Feeding America. The longer food insecurity continues, the greater the chance of cognitive delays. 
We urge elected officials in Washington to do all they can to preserve SNAP benefits to ensure the longevity of such a critical program the meets basic needs of humankind and fuels economy growth and prosperity. 
Alex Baloga is the President & CEO of the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association and Kristen Rotz is the President of United Way of Pennsylvania. 

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DATE: APRIL 16, 2018 10:00AM

United Way of Pennsylvania Candidate Survey offers Pennsylvanians the opportunity to learn where gubernatorial candidates stand on issues related to education, health, financial stability, and the nonprofit sector

Harrisburg, PA – United Way of Pennsylvania (UWP), a statewide nonpartisan organization representing 43 member local United Ways and three United Funds in Pennsylvania, released the results of a gubernatorial candidate survey.

“United Way hopes Pennsylvanians will use this information to learn more about the candidates as they prepare to head to the polls for the May primary,” stated Kristen Rotz, President of United Way of Pennsylvania. “There are many factors that voters should consider as they evaluate the candidates. Among these are the issues United Way considers to be foundational to the vibrancy of our local communities and opportunity for all: education, health, financial stability, and the viability of the nonprofit sector.”

The full survey results are available on the UWP public website at under the “Advocacy” menu by clicking on the link for “2018 Gubernatorial Candidates on the Issues”.  The full set of responses has been posted for each candidate. The responses are available in two formats: sorted by issue area, or sorted by candidate.

The survey captures where the candidates stand on issues, such as the following:

  • Access to high-quality pre-k and child care
  • The state budget process and avoiding a budget impasse
  • Workforce development strategies
  • Access to healthcare
  • Partnership with 2-1-1 for human services information and referral

United Way of Pennsylvania is a 501(c)(3) organization, which does not engage in partisan political activity. UWP will not endorse a candidate for governor. The purpose of this survey is to educate voters impartially on a nonpartisan basis. All candidates were given equal opportunity to respond to the survey, and three out of four gubernatorial candidates participated.  The candidates who responded to this survey are Laura Ellsworth, Scott Wagner and Tom Wolf.

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