Generous Midlands gives United Way campaign a boost

WE COMMEND the corporations, workers and individuals around the Midlands who have dared to look beyond their own needs in this faltering economy to help those less fortunate by donating to the United Way.

Because of this community's generous, caring collective heart, the United Way of the Midlands expects to reach its $10.2 million 2009 campaign goal. As of Thursday, agency officials were projecting they would come in $70,000 short of the mark but were discussing ways to close that gap.If the agency reaches this year's goal - there's still time for those who want to give to do so - it would rank among just 15 percent of campaigns nationwide to top their previous year's total. Last year, the United Way of the Midlands raised about $10 million.

The Midlands' generous response to the United Way couldn't have come at a more critical time. The brutal recession has ravaged family incomes across the nation. The city of Columbia has been hit particularly hard. More than one of every four Columbia residents is living in poverty, according to a study by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think thank. The poverty rate within Columbia's city limits is 28 percent - up more than a quarter from 22 percent a decade ago.

And don't be mistaken; the poor aren't simply people who don't have jobs. The fact is that many working people are struggling to make ends meet, a problem the United Way discovered in doing its latest community survey, Facing Facts. The survey identified poverty and the struggle to meet basic needs, access to affordable health care, education for the work force and transportation among the community's top priorities for funding assistance. The United Way supports programs in Richland, Lexington, Fairfield, Newberry, Orangeburg and Calhoun counties.

Human service needs in these areas were great even before the economy faltered. Not surprisingly, those needs have grown rapidly as people have been furloughed, had their pay cut or lost jobs. Fortunately, the United Way and the agencies and initiatives that benefit from its fundraising will be better able to help those going through difficult times.

All who pitched in to help should be proud of their effort to build a safety net for our community.

During such uncertain times as these, even those fortunate enough to still have incomes understandably are wary of how they spend their hard-earned dollars. But it's quite obvious that many in the Midlands, while they are wisely watching their money, thought about more than themselves - and perhaps even reflected on the fact that they're just a job or paycheck away from needing help - and decided to give in order to help their struggling friends and neighbors. Thank you.