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Published: Tuesday, 12/3/2002

A United Way shortfall

It's crunch time for the United Way of Greater Toledo. The annual campaign is nearly over, but United Way's ambitious goal of $14.4 million is proving a bit more elusive than goals in years past.

At the end of November, United Way's army of volunteers had amassed $8.8 million in pledges and expected to generate another $5.2 million from traditionally generous companies and individuals who haven't yet reported in. If the projections are correct, that will leave United Way about $400,000 short of its goal.

Goal-setting is a sticky business in the first place. Set a goal roughly the same as the previous year, and there is little incentive to do better. But set a goal that is unrealistically high, and the campaign is deemed a failure if it doesn't make it.

Add a shaky economy to the mix and United Way's predicament is obvious. Campaign officials say that the giving shortfall is across the board in all divisions and categories, thanks to layoffs and downsizing.

A clear indication of the problem: Last year at this time United Way had received pledges of $10.5 million on its way to collecting more than $14.7 million. That was achieved in the teeth of the recession, and though economic indicators may be improving in the fall of 2002, it's clear that many firms and individuals are still struggling to bounce back.

That may yet be the saving grace in this year's campaign. The traditional generosity of folks in Lucas, Wood, and Ottawa Counties - United Way of Greater Toledo's service area - often becomes most evident when times are toughest.

And the times are always tough for the neediest among us. United Way funds some 150 health and human services programs at 68 agencies in the three counties. Collectively they impact the lives of 400,000 people.

If this year's campaign somehow passed you by, there's still time to help. The campaign has been extended to the end of the year, and you can even print out a pledge form from the United Way Web site, www.uwgtol.org.

Or you can phone in a pledge. Operators, as they say, are standing by. So are the people who need your help.



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