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United Way giving seems to be up in Franklin Co.

Agencies' needs on the rise with economic downturn, budget impasse

Agencies' needs on the rise with economic downturn, budget impasse

December 05, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- United Way of Franklin County hopes that its conservative annual campaign goal will help the organization avoid another funding shortfall in 2010.

With the agency reporting 56 percent of its goal raised last week, Executive Director Amy Hicks said the organization is better positioned than it was this time last year.

"This has been a tough year," she said. "We set our goal last year not knowing the depth of the economic decline. As a result, the 2008 campaign did not pull in what we set as our goal so we were forced to stretch our resources."

Amending its goal to reflect giving in 2008, the agency hopes to raise $730,000 by the end of February, Hicks said.

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Typically, the campaign is at 60 or 70 percent by close of the year, so reaching 56 percent by the end of November is great, she said.

At the heart of the campaign are the employer-run drives, many of which are still under way, she said.

Knowing that giving is down, the agency got creative this year, partnering regionally with United Way organizations in hopes of at least nearing its goal.

The United Way of Franklin County joined with the United Way of Washington County (Md.), the United Way of the Eastern Panhandle (W.Va.), and the United Way of Frederick County (Md.) to host an online auction.

Donated items ranging from gift certificates to trips were put out for bid through Dec. 7. The agencies will split the proceeds, Hicks said.

Despite aiming $70,000 lower than its goal in 2008, Hicks said, thanks to creative efforts, donations appear to be on the rise.

Unfortunately, she said, so are demands.

The United Way supports 27 agencies in Franklin County and reaches approximately one in three county residents.

"The big challenge is knowing that even if we raise our campaign goal every year, we will never completely meet all the needs of this community," she said. "No single agency's needs are met entirely."

Adding to the pressures of the 2008 economic downturn, was the recent budget impasse, Hicks said.

Most of the United Way's partners were forced to either cut services or close temporarily while partisan lawmakers held commonwealth funding in limbo.

The United Way does not receive Commonwealth dollars, however, with the budget shortfall shutting down programs like daycare and the South Central Community Action Program's homeless shelter, Hicks said the options available to United Way applicants fell drastically during the impasse.

Only now are those agencies beginning to rebound, she said.

Still, the United Way of Franklin County is optimistic that 2010 will be free from some of the pressures felt in 2009, she said.

Hicks estimated that one in every three Franklin County residents is touched by the United Way.

In 2008, the agency reached 45,500 people, including residents of neighboring Fulton County.

Fulton County is not home to a United Way, but Hicks said her agency works to ensure that those who need help in Fulton County receive it.

Anyone interested in the online auction can visit http://www.unitedwayauctions.cmarket.com/. Bidding ends Dec. 7.

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