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Upshur Co. United Way campaign falling short

by James Fisher

REGIONAL WRITER

With just a few weeks remaining, Upshur County's United Way fund-raising campaign has been pledged less than half of what it needs.

Despite the bleak outlook, the new executive director is guardedly optimistic that things will turn around as the campaign winds down.

"We still have a couple of the traditionally larger contributors that we haven't heard from yet," said Natalie Reeder. "We normally see a lot of the contributions come in January, although there is no way we're going to make our goal."

The United Way of Upshur County helps provide funding for 22 agencies. The goal they set this year was $55,000, about $5,000 less than last year, Reeder said.

Other United Way campaigns in North Central West Virginia are not experiencing Upshur County's shortfall.

Of the five other campaigns -- Harrison, Randolph, Marion, Lewis and Monongalia/Preston -- three have reached or exceeded their goals while the other two are within 10 percent.

"Since 1985, we've always reached our goal by Dec. 31," said Bonnie Phares, director of the Randolph County United Way. "We have a hard working board and very generous people. Thank goodness we have such great people in Randolph County."

Lewis and Monongalia/Preston counties also reached their goals. Harrison County's campaign is at about 99 percent of its goal while Marion County is about 92 percent.

"Our history is that we've made our goal only three times in the last decade, which hasn't caused us to want to have a higher goal," said Dave Elkinton, executive director of the United Way of Marion County. "We're within striking distance. In fact, we're slightly ahead of last year's pace and we did make our goal last year."

For Upshur County, one of the biggest factors in the fund-raising shortfall is a decision by several major contributors to give to the national organization instead of the county, Reeder said.

Elkinton also explained that it is often hard to discern exactly how much has been donated because funds flow into and out of the county agencies each quarter. Elkinton said any donor can designate money to either a specific agency or county. Consequentially, some of the money that comes into the Marion County office actually has been pledged elsewhere, and some money pledged to Marion County from other places has not yet arrived.

"Sometimes it takes a little time to chase the money through the system," he said. "We are all pledged to seeing that the dollars pledged reach the proper agency."

Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at jfisher@exponent-telegram.com.

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