CATEGORY: EDT Editorials

AUTHOR: JOER

Communities rally around good causes. Few are better than the United Way and its work for thousands of people in greater Lee County.

The 1997-1998 fund campaign started Thursday aiming for a goal of $1.325 million by late November.

The goal looks difficult, but every new United Way budget reflects the challenges and opportunities presented by the member agencies representing the needs and potential of people ranging all across the map of age, interest and economic status.

Thirty agencies all of them offering services to help people with special needs and to fulfill special opportunities passed muster with the United Way's review process. All have passed a litmus test that includes financial accountability, reliability, competency of staff and volunteers and, above all, the need for what each offers.

The United Way doesn't fully fund the programs, but its fundraising provides major budget support for all the agencies. Few, if any, could maintain current levels of service or expand to broader and higher outreach without the United Way's support.

United Way's concept in greater Lee County is simple: Strength in unity and numbers. Many people making contributions in a systematic, regular way at many levels of generosity works better than splintered (and sometimes confusing) efforts by individual agencies alone. Some of United Way's agency partners do have additional funding drives or sources of income, but all depend on Lee County's United Way (and similar efforts in other Northeast Mississippi communities) for money.

The financial heart and soul of the United Way is systematic payroll deductions. The deductions, made through cooperative employers who also may make corporate contributions, make generosity easy and affordable for almost everyone.

Those making contributions frequently become clients and participants of the supported agencies. A payroll deduction, for example, might touch a contributor's children who participate in Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, the 4-H Clubs, and a number of other youth-focused program agencies.

The cost is shared, and needs are met for everybody.

Scores of corporate donors have a long history of commitment to the United Way concept. Thousands of employees join hands with their companies and businesses and the results are obvious across the decades.

The goal is $1.325 million. It's practical. It's reachable. It's needed.

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