The annual United Way Campaign started Thursday in McDuffie County. This year's goal is $136,600 -- a 5 percent increase over last year.
"We're making strides towards improving, and even though the economy is still tough, our citizens have been good and they've met all our goals thus far," said George Lokey, chairman of the board of United Way of McDuffie and Warren counties.
United Way is an international, nonprofit organization that improves lives in local communities by gathering donated funds and distributing them to agencies that benefit the needy.
According to Executive Director Charles Bellmann, almost all money raised comes from automatic payroll deductions. Even if employees work in another county, they are able to designate the money to benefit the county where they live.
"I've been involved with United Way for a long time. I think it's a good way to pool our money to support agencies that benefit McDuffie County," Mr. Lokey said.
Last year, a large sum of money came from people from this area who work at Savannah River Site. Local businesses that top the list of employee contributions include: The McDuffie County Board of Education, Shaw Industries, Milsco Manufacturing, Advanced Auto Parts, United Postal Service, the City of Thomson and McDuffie County. Civic groups such as the Thomson Rotary Club and the Kiwanis Club also provide "major assistance," Mr. Bellmann said.
The campaign runs from Thursday, Oct. 14 through Wednesday, Dec. 15. Grants are awarded to agencies in January. A board of directors reviews each agency, evaluates their programs, and allocates how the money is distributed.
"Some agencies have requested more this year," Mr. Lokey said. "The tough economy has created additional demands on Manna and Golden Harvest. So, we're trying to help them by increasing our goal. The aid comes right back to the folks that really need it."
Ninety-two percent of the funds raised stays in the local area benefiting the American Red Cross, Boys and Girls Club of Thomson, Georgia-Carolina Boy Scout Council, CSRA Girl Scout Council, Family Y, Golden Harvest Food Bank, Manna, McDuffie County 4-H, McDuffie County Special Olympics, GA-TASC, Partners For Success, Salvation Army -- McDuffie County Unite, Sand Hills Psychoeducational Center and Thomson-McDuffie County Recreation and Leisure Services.
Anyone wishing to donate may contact Mr. Bellmann at 706-597-8373, or by mail at P.O. Box 87, Thomson, GA 30824.