United Way kicks off $4.6M campaign

United Way has raised the bar for donors with a new campaign goal of $4.6 million.

It's up from $4.33 million raised last year, said Rod Webring, the 2009 campaign chairman, at the campaign kickoff breakfast Wednesday at TRAC in Pasco.

More than 200 local business and community leaders attended the launch of the organization's 51st annual fundraising drive.

"We chose an aggressive goal because the needs of the community continue to grow," said Beverly Weber, president and CEO of United Way of Benton and Franklin Counties. United Way is the area's largest private supporter of human services.

People in the Tri-Cities have always met the challenge, Weber said. "They dig a little deeper into their pockets."

United Way supports 23 agencies and their 49 programs that include youth development and services for people with disabilities, among others, Weber said. The kickoff breakfast helped attendees learn about the agencies and the services they provide.

Over the years, the number of local donors has stayed about the same, but donors always have been sensitive to the needs of the organization and have donated more, she said.

The incredible generosity of the people in the Tri-Cities stands out as many other communities across the nation battle the ongoing recession, she said.

This year United Way launched a new program to help corporations to designate their company gifts to cover United Way's administrative and fundraising costs as well as pledge loss, Weber said.

The United Way's Cornerstone Program will remove a barrier cited by potential donors who don't want part of their donation to go to overhead costs, she said. That means individual contributions could be used to support programs and services that help people, Weber said.

For more information about United Way, call 783-4102 or go to www.united

-- Pratik Joshi: 582-1541; pjoshi@tricity; Business Beat blog at