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United way campaign gets under way

September 01, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

About 250 United Way volunteers were on hand Wednesday morning for the kickoff of the agency's 1999 fund-raising campaign, which coincided with the agency's annual "Day of Caring."

Volunteers wearing chef's hats with black numbers and letters lined up in front of the Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown's meeting room and spelled out this year's fund-raising goal: $1.7 million.

"And is it doable?" challenged campaign Chairman Jim Pierne.

The volunteers who gathered for breakfast said yes.

"Is it doable?" Pierne asked again.

Back came a more enthusiastic reply in the affirmative.

"That's better," said Pierne, who is the chief operating officer at Farmers & Merchants Bank and Trust.

Last year, the Washington County United Way raised a little more than $1.6 million. Pierne said he hopes to raise even more this year by increasing the number of companies with employee contribution programs.

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In addition to the companies that United Way officials have approached, some have contacted them, Pierne said. Stationery House and TruServ are among the companies that will initiate campaigns to urge their employees to donate.

"We have a lot more volunteers involved this year," he said.

The campaign lasts until the end of the year.

"It's a very short window of opportunity," said Kathleen Hall, the United Way's executive director.

Hall said last year's total exceeded those of United Ways in surrounding areas.

"We just do an incredible job in Washington County," she said.

The money raised during the campaign will be distributed to the 22 member agencies. Beginning last year, funds have gone to programs that the organizations demonstrate are successful.

Hall said it is the only United Way agency of its size that funds programs rather than organizations.

Wednesday also marked the eighth "Day of Caring," under which United Way volunteers spent the day painting stairwells, washing windows, sorting food and doing other tasks for United Way member agencies.

In past years, the volunteer day has been held in the middle of the summer, but United Way officials said they moved it to coincide with the fund-raising kickoff for the first time.

"More publicity. More people involved," said Rich Gagliardi, president of the United Way's executive committee. "We've got a lot of energy."

Pierne praised the volunteers and their companies for giving them the time to participate.

"This is a real demonstration of commitment on the part of everyone here and everyone who will participate," he said.

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