Picture this: You’re a kid at Union City Elementary School. Instead of using your quarters on a bag of chips, you stroll over to a vending machine to grab—a book! It sounds like something out of a fairy tale. But at Union City Elementary, it’s a reality. The school just installed Inchy’s Bookworm Vending Machine. It’s all thanks to a generous grant from Erie County’s United Way.

Union City Elementary, a United Way Community School, Student shows off his book from Inchy’s Bookworm Vending Machine.

United Way: Making Dreams Come True

Erie County’s United Way is driven by a compelling mission. “To use resources that break the cycle of poverty and enhance our community.” Their vision is equally inspiring. “To create a united, collaborative community in the Erie region.” Ninety-nine cents of every dollar they raise stays IN Erie County. This is great news for Union City Elementary, a United Way Community School.

United Way Community Schools

United Way’s Community Schools support students and their families. This program helps students become successful in school and life.

In 2021, Bailey Pituch, community school director, wanted to inspire students to love reading. The school used to offer a program where students could earn books. But it faded away due to space constraints. Pituch wanted to bring back something similar. But it had to be a permanent fixture. That’s when she heard about Inchy’s Bookworm Vending Machine.

Remembering Kathy Obert

Around the same time, the school community suffered a loss. Beloved reading coach, Kathy Obert, passed away. Herfamily requested donations in her memory be made to the school. Then the money would be used to inspire Union City Elementary students to fall in love with reading. Upon purchase, the book vending machine was dedicated to Kathy’s memory. What a wonderful tribute to a dedicated educator!

The Grant-Powered Book Vending Machine

Every six months, United Way opens grant applications to schools like Union City. Schools can apply for funding projects that align with specific needs.

With the power of a United Way grant, the school was able to purchase Inchy’s Bookworm Vending Machine. The total cost, including a custom wrap and shelves for picture books, came to around $6,000. The additional $1,500 raised from Obert’s peers was used to stock the first rounds of books.

Designing the Machine with United Way and Someone Special In Mind

Well, this tale gets even more magical when you hear about the design of the vending machine. The United Way team consulted teachers and Obert’s family to capture the essence of what Kathy Obert stood for. The result? A stunning machine with the theme, ‘Reading Opens Doors,’ featuring beautiful artwork by Obert’s daughter, Andrea.


The story of Inchy’s Bookworm Vending Machine at Union City Elementary is a true testament to grants and the power of community. It shows that with the right support, we can create opportunities for our children’s futures. So, keep an eye out for grant opportunities in your community and start making dreams come true!

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