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United Way appeal hits 26% of goal

November 13, 2008

There are very few easy campaigns for the United Way of Washington County. In 2001, the campaign saw many local dollars go to relief efforts for those hurt by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

This year the public's attention has been concentrated on national and local elections and the troubled state of the national economy.

Despite that, Noel Williams, who's co-chairing the campaign along with Tim Henry, said the 2008 appeal is on pace with last year's effort and has raised (as of this week) $524,000.

That's about 26 percent of the campaign's $2 million goal, he said.

"It's pretty close to last year," Williams said, adding that by the end of November, the campaign hopes to be at 50 percent of goal.

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"Once we get to the end of this month, that's going to be the big 'tell,'" Williams said.

The $2 million goal was set last year, before the economy began to sour, but Williams said he is certain it's not too much to ask.

"Every year, we don't satisfy all of the needs," he said, adding that although $2 million would go a long way, it wouldn't cover everything.

Asked if there is one need that stands out, or is more urgent, William said no.

"I can't say that there is. What I can say is that these are not just needs, they're people in need," he said.

Asked about the campaign's next step, Williams said that although the "campaign cabinet" has been working on the 2008 appeal since March of this year, the planning still isn't done.

"Right now we're working on finding places we can talk about giving. The campaign cabinet is talking about the final push," he said.

This is familiar territory for Williams, who has been involved in the local campaign for about 12 years, since relocating here from Texas.

He has served on the allocations committee, an all-volunteer group that makes decisions about where money should be allocated - and where it must be cut if the campaign falls short of its goal.

"During the hard times, when you have to make cuts, those are extremely hard decisions to make," he said.

If there is one thing that tips the scales in his mind in favor of one agency or another, it's the needs of children.

"You've got to keep in mind the kids that don't have as much, to try to give them a better start," he said.

Asked about what has surprised him about the United Way and the current campaign, Williams said he has really been amazed by how much this county gives. And it's not just the big donors, either, he said.

"The biggest part of the campaign is the regular giving of $10 or $20 or a few dollars a week. The bigger giving is import, but we need both to succeed," he said.

As a former board member of several United Way agencies, I'm prejudied in favor of the campaign.

Unpaid volunteers make all of the important decisions and raise most of the money. And each agency's books are open for inspection by the public.

What the United Way does would be much more expensive if done by the government.

And if nothing else moves here, consider this: You might not need the help of any United Way agency now, but are you certain that you never will? Wouldn't it be prudent to make sure the help is there if and when you need it by contributing now?

For a listing of agencies and additional information, visit the United Way of Washington County Web site at www.unitedwaywashcounty.org

Want to donate? Go the Web site or send a check to United Way, 33 W. Franklin St., Suite 203, Hagerstown, MD 21740.

You and your family and friends might never need the help of a United Way agency, but then again, who expected the American economy to tank this year?

A United Way contribution will bolster the safety net that we all depend on.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail.

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