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United Way makes push

December 20, 2007

With just a few days left before Christmas, we're sure the average Washington County resident's mind is filled with thoughts of last-minute shopping, preparing the holiday meal and deciding which worship service to attend on Dec. 25.

But as many local people work to ensure a happy holiday for their family and friends, another group is working hard to make sure the next year is a good one for this community's neediest folks.

They're the volunteers of United Way of Washington County, doing whatever they can to help the campaign reach its goal of $1.9 million.

As of Wednesday, the annual appeal has raised $1.3 million, or about 61 percent of goal, which means that there is still $600,000 to go.

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The campaign hit a bump in the road earlier this year, when campaign officials and the executive director hired to replace Dale Bannon decided the job "wasn't a good fit" for him.

Since then, Rod Shoop, the former county administrator, has stepped into the job on an acting basis, until the United Way board can agree on a new director.

Reached last week, Shoop said that the campaign was going "a little slower than last year," adding that because of concern that the campaign wouldn't reach goal, a final push has begun.

Earlier this month, Shoop said the campaign began an effort to "touch every business in Washington County."

A group of 25 volunteers was assembled to contact every firm that hasn't participated so far, either through a corporate contribution or running an employee campaign.

So what happens if the United Way doesn't reach its goal? Then a group of volunteers will look at what has been received, then divide it as best they can.

For some of the 25 members agencies, this will mean reducing services.

Should the Alzheimer's Association have to cut its services to those dealing with a family member's struggle with a disease that robs patients, bit by bit, of a lifetime of memories?

Consider all of the local organizations that provide character-building and recreational services for youth ? Boy and Girl Scouts, Girls Inc., the Boys & Girls Club, Memorial Recreation Center and the YMCA. Which services should they cut?

There are also agencies, including Wells House and W House, that serve those recovering form addiction. Should those services be cut?

This is not a poor community and it should be no problem to reach this goal. As we have said many times previously, sometimes it's difficult to imagine ourselves being in need.

But things happen ? a family member gets sick, a company lays off a parent or a child needs more help growing up than his or her parents can provide.

In other words, if the plight of those the United Way serves doesn't move you, consider your contribution as insurance, so that if and when you or one of your family members needs help, one of United Way's agencies can provide it.

Still not sure? The United Way and all its member agencies' financial records are open to the public. Yes, those who give large amounts are sometimes honored at dinners or other events, but these functions are paid for, not from your contributions, but by corporate sponsors.

If you feel you can contribute, the easiest way to do that is to call 301-739-8200, ext. 12.

Or you may mail a check to the United Way of Washington County, 33 W. Franklin St., Suite 203, Hagerstown, MD 21740.

To learn more about the United Way and its 50 years of service to the community, visit this Web site:

www.unitedwaywashcounty.org.

The current campaign closes on Jan. 31, according to Leah Gayman, its director of resource development. Thank you for any contribution you can find it in your heart to make.

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