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UW kicks off 2008-09 campaign

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By Chris Sardelli

The United Way of Lancaster County celebrated its 51st year in style Friday with a kickoff breakfast at the Lancaster Golf Club.

Over 100 people gathered at the Fairway Room to begin the 2008-09 community campaign while dining on scrambled eggs, sausage and biscuits. In attendance were the organization's board members, as well as many local contributors. They met to discuss the new campaign goal and review the organization's progress over the past year.

"They've done a terrific job with an emphasis within the city," said Bill Sumner, mayor pro tem for Lancaster.

During the meeting, Sumner proclaimed October 2008 as Lancaster County Live United Month, in reference to the organization's new motto.

He urged residents and businesses to both advocate and volunteer in the community to "make a difference in the lives of our people."

The local United Way focuses on three main action areas: education of residents, helping families become financially stable and improving people's health.

Lanny Bernard, chairman of the United Way's board of directors, said $450,000 was raised in last year's campaign, surpassing the $400,000 goal. He expects to do the same with this year's goal of $425,000.

"It was a significant increase in a very trying year," Bernard said. "Hopefully, we will be able to, in these tough economic times, exceed our goals and have even more of an impact on the community."

According to its Web site, over 98 percent of contributions made to the United Way of Lancaster County stay in the county.

"I'm hoping we exceed [the goal], continue to grow United Way and make greater inroads into the northern part of the county," said Jerry Witherspoon, treasurer of the United Way here.

Janice Dabney, assistant chief executive officer at Springs Memorial Hospital and a former president of the local United Way, said the organization struggled to make its goal for the last several years and was pleased to finally exceed expectations in the last campaign.

She said it's always difficult to raise money during tough economic times. She recalled how hard it was to raise funds in 1989 when Hurricane Hugo hit the Carolinas, but said community members generally rally together to help those in need.

"People tend to give better amounts when times are hard, they dig a little deeper," Dabney said. "I think everybody is born with that urge to give and help others."

Executive director Denise Keating directs Lancaster County residents and businesses to her organization's new Web site, www.uwaylcsc.org, to find more information about ways they can contribute.

So far, she's seen a positive reaction from the community and hopes it will continue throughout the year.

"I'm hoping we can maintain the level from last year," Keating said. "I'm hopeful for the community. Every donation matters and together we can make an impact in our community."

Contact reporter Christopher Sardelli at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416