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United Way nears record

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United Way of Bartholomew County leaders say they are close to a record 2013-14 fundraising campaign.

If final figures being tallied top last year’s $4 million mark — the best per-capita giving in the state for the 11th straight year — it would mark a third straight record campaign amid a still-sputtering economy locally and nationally.

The final campaign figure will be announced at the agency’s annual meeting, 4 p.m. Thursday at Columbus’ Factory 12 Event Loft, 12th and Washington streets.

Jan Harris, United Way’s director of resource development, said she recently attended a national United Way conference in Florida and heard stories from other chapters struggling merely to hit basic campaign goals.

“I would be more than happy just to meet last year’s mark,” Harris said. “But I don’t think we can take any glory for it at United Way. I think the community has raised their giving game.”

She believes increased awareness of local needs, highlighted in the assessment report, “Charting a New Course,” released in February 2013, has been a key.

That report highlighted three major areas needing upgrading among residents: financial stability, education and health. The report lists information such as the poverty level in different areas of the community to the estimated living wage of $35,000 for a family of four here.

“When people truly see the needs, it makes them want to give,” Harris said. “People are giving because they want to make a difference and they want to see success.

“And with tangible information now, we can go out and show people how we can make a difference.”

United Way of Bartholomew County President Mark Stewart said the organization’s battle cry of the past year has been breaking the cycle of poverty.

“No one organization in the community can do that on its own,” Stewart said. “But when we all work together and each execute what we do best, then we really can make an impact and make great things happen.”

Donations from this year’s campaign will be used to fuel the work of its 25 nonprofit agencies operating more than 30 social service programs, from early childhood education initiatives to youth mentoring efforts and senior exercise classes.

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