01/12/06 — United Way hits goal

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United Way hits goal

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on January 12, 2006 1:51 PM

The extra generosity of a handful of dedicated United Way supporters enabled the organization to meet its financial campaign goal for 2005.

Last-minute contributions by several businesses and individuals pushed the Wayne County annual campaign over its goal -- by just $5,000.

The campaign raised $1,430,015 to help charitable organizations in the county. The total will be announced tonight at a recognition ceremony.

"What happened to finally bring the campaign to a conclusion -- and a successful one -- was that some individuals in our community who had already given to the campaign came back to us with very generous contributions," campaign chairman Jane Rustin said. "That makes a difference."

Things looked bleak during the last two months of the year. The outpouring of donations to victims of Hurricane Katrina had tapped many sources of donations the Wayne organization had come to rely on.

Normally, the campaign ends around Thanksgiving. This past year, the organization was more than $300,000 short when the holiday rolled around.

Officials extended the deadline to mid-December, but found themselves still $75,000 short. So they extended it again, to late December. And they turned again to donors who had already reached deep into their pockets.

One company, which did not want to be named, gave an additional $20,000, Ms. Rustin said. The company had already given $5,000 more than it had in the past.

"Then they came to us and said they realized this was a difficult time for United Way and they had had a good year and wanted to share their prosperity."

A man who had already given $500 turned around and gave that much again.

"This year, even though he's retired, he said understood our circumstances and he doubled his gift," Ms. Rustin said.

When the second deadline extension came and went, Ms. Rustin said she was feeling very optimistic, yet very discouraged. "I just kept thinking this is Wayne County and we can do it," she said. "On the other hand, it didn't look as if it was going to happen.

"But it was just through the generosity of those people at the end who said 'we're going to make it happen.' That really confirmed all my beliefs about the folks who live here. They're good people and they take care of each other."

Meeting the goal means United Way will not have to reduce the amount of help it provides to the charitable groups it helps sponsor, Ms. Rustin said. United Way officials estimate the money raised will go to help more than 28,000 people in the county in the coming year.

"It really makes a difference in people's lives, and I'm so glad that people are not going to have to be turned away this year because we didn't make the goal," she said.

Ms. Rustin said county residents should be proud of the way Wayne rose to the challenges of helping the victims of Katrina while maintaining the level of charitable giving that is vital to the local groups United Way supports.

"I think the message about people's lives being improved really got through," Ms. Rustin said. "The campaign is really about those folks being helped. And I think people heard that."