Editorial: Midlands supports United Way at record level

02/07/2013 12:00 AM

02/07/2013 12:06 AM

WITH THE economy still at a crawl, more and more families and individuals are seeking aid, but many charities are struggling to meet the burgeoning needs because giving has been stagnant or down.

As unfortunate as it is, it isn’t surprising that charitable donations have contracted in these uncertain times. People tend to give less, choosing to squirrel away any extra money they might have so they’ll be prepared to weather any personal financial storm that might blow their way.

While we’re sure many in our community have taken wise steps to protect their financial stability, many also are sacrificing to minimize the struggles of friends and neighbors in need. How else can we explain the historic fundraising campaign the United Way of the Midlands is experiencing? The charitable organization has collected a record $10.25 million so far this year; that represents 99 percent of its 2012-13 goal, which means that total should rise even higher. Last year, the United Way collected $10.22 million.

We commend the many individuals, companies and others who rallied around the United Way. But while it’s good to celebrate the milestone, it’s even better to acknowledge the tremendously good work that money will do for those in need. The United Way of the Midlands has mastered its innovative strategy aimed at steering this community’s limited charitable dollars to areas of greatest need.

The organization, which supports programs in Richland, Lexington, Fairfield, Newberry, Orangeburg and Calhoun counties, takes an active role in identifying appropriate, qualified organizations to deliver services that address the Midlands’ most pressing needs.

Contributions will support programs that address areas such as poverty and the struggle to meet basic needs, access to affordable health care, work-skills education and transportation. Among other things, the United Way has supported the Midlands Reading Consortium, the Homelessness and Housing program and Mission 2012, which provided free medical assistance to nearly 3,000 uninsured residents last fall.

This year’s successful fundraising effort is due to the commitment and selflessness of those who gave through workplace campaigns, grants and individual donations. It was boosted by a group of 55 companies that raised $4.4 million through early workplace campaigns. Several companies — SCANA, Kraft Foods and First Citizens Bank among them — increased their giving. Giving percentages also rose at Columbia College, Columbia International University, Midlands Technical College, South University and Virginia College.

While that generous group of pacesetters got things off to a fast start, it took donors from across the spectrum and donations of all sizes to keep the United Way on a record pace.

Every dollar donated is needed to help provide critical safety nets to address our community’s significant social and human service needs. Many of our friends and neighbors need help in a variety of areas, from housing to tutoring to early childhood development and more.

But although the United Way of the Midlands has reached an unprecedented level, it is still short of its goal — and there is still time to donate in this campaign year, which continues through June. To contribute, visit www.uway.org/give or call Mike Gray at (803) 733-5422.

We know it’s a sacrifice for many, but let’s dig deep not just so we can boast about how much money was raised but so we can help improve the lives of as many friends and neighbors — and, in some cases, family members — as we possibly can.

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