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Please help United Way raise appeal's last $20,000

December 09, 2004

One week from now, the United Way of Washington County will wrap up its 2004 fund-raising appeal. The campaign is agonizingly close to meeting its goal of $1.6 million and we urge all who can help to do so.

Jenny Fleming, United Way marketing and campaign coordinator and Robert Ernst, this year's campaign co-chair, on Tuesday said that with a last- minute push to get individuals and firms running in-house campaigns to boost their donations, they hope to hit this year's goal.

If all the individual campaigns succeed as well as as they have previously, they said, the United Way would need only $20,000 in "new money" to hit the goal.

The local effort faced big challenges this year. First was the departure of James Taylor, the agency's executive director. The second was layoffs and the downsizing at some local companies, such as Allegheny Energy, which had run big campaigns previously.

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But for every obstacle, there's been a success story. Washington County School Board employees, for example, have increased their donations by $17,000 during this campaign.

Those are the kinds of efforts Fleming, Ernst and his co-chairman, Art Callaham, will be looking for in this final week. Just a month ago, the campaign was looking at a $35,000 shortfall. Now they project that effort is just $20,000 under goal. We would like to see the community push this effort over the top.

Why? Because the United Way may be the area's most efficient user of charitable dollars. In recent years, it sold its headquarters, moved to a smaller office and cut staff.

Decisions about which agency gets how much are made by volunteers from the community. To get money for 2005, agencies must show how well they used what they got in 2004.

This year, Fleming and Ernst said, the agencies have been telling them that Washington County's needy are having problems with health-care costs.

Agencies such as the Community Free Clinic help workers whose jobs don't provide health insurance so that they don't end up in the emergency room.

And if you can't support the campaign out of compassion for the needy, consider the possibility that sooner or later, you or some family member will need a United Way agency's services.

Whether you donate now may mean the difference between a well-funded agency that's ready to help and one that's struggling to stay afloat.

For more information on how to give, please call 301-739-8200 or send a check to The United Way, 18706 Crestwood Drive, Hagerstown, MD 21742.

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