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United Way kicks off St. Lawrence County campaign Monday

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CANTON - Hoping to boost donations, the United Way of Northern New York is scheduled to kick off its 2013-2014 St. Lawrence County campaign Monday.

The event markes the first time in several years that a separate kick-off event will be held for St. Lawrence County.

Executive Director Robert D. Gorman and Joseph L. Kennedy, county campaign chair, plan to launch the fund drive during the Canton Rotary Club’s noon luncheon at the Best Western University Inn.

For many years, donations from St. Lawrence County residents have been not been great enough to cover funding requests from county not-for-profits that get a share of United Way funding.

“I think people would be shocked at the number of people in St. Lawrence County who receive some sort of assistance, anything from food pantries to help from the Renewal House,” Mr. Kennedy said. ”As a community, we need to make sure that we take care of those who need the most help.”

Rather than setting a monetary goal, Mr. Gorman said the three counties that comprise the United Way of Northern New have been challenged to increase their number of donors.

“They will be setting their own internal goals,” Mr. Gorman said.

This year the agency distributed $500,000 to 40 not-for-profit groups in the three-county region. In St. Lawrence County, 16 not-for-profits received United Way dollars.

However, funding requests totaled $750,000, creating a gap that United Way officials hope to close.

“The United Way is not coming anywhere near what the need is,” Mr. Gorman said.

Roughly 250,000 people reside in the three counties, with about 4,500 contributing to United Way. “That’s a number that a lot of people are shocked to hear,” Mr. Gorman said. “My goal is to increaes that number by 1,000.”

Those in the workforce can contribute through payroll deductions if their employer partners with United Way. A food drive and a program to address domestic violence are other United Way projects planned for St. Lawrence County.

The United Way has also contracted with former NFL player Joe Ehrmman, who will speak in Canton April 6 and 7 as part of the Victims Rights Week organized by Catholic Charities and Renewal House. Mr. Ehrmann speaks to coaches about turning boys into the kind of men all communities would like to have.

Even small donations such as $1 a pay period make a difference when multiplied by a large number of employees, Mr. Kennedy said.

“The idea is to start creating the tradition of giving,” he said.

Mr. Gorman said the Canton Veterans of Foreign Wars offered to cover the cost of lunch for United Way’s non-profit agencies that wanted to send representatives to Monday’s kick-off event.

That day supplies will be distributed to businesses that want to participate in the fundraising campaign.

“The kick-off is going to be a nice blend of not-for-profits and people from the business community coming together,” Mr. Gorman said.

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