The United Way of Bristol has already raised more than a fourth of its $1.4 million fundraising goal, campaign officials revealed during a Monday luncheon at the Bristol train station.

“I’m stoked that we’ve been to do so well this quickly,” said Jim Maxwell, publisher of the Bristol Herald Courier and chairman of the United Way’s current annual campaign.

To date the Bristol chapter has raised $372, 233, or 27 percent of its goal in about a month.

“Our goal is big, yet the needs of our community are even bigger. So, while we have a big challenge still ahead of us, I’m optimistic we will meet the goal,” Maxwell said.

This year’s mark is the highest campaign goal ever set by the nonprofit organization, which supports nearly 30 agencies and charities across both Bristols. Last year, the United Way chapter exceeded its $1.3 million goal but had only reached 20 percent of its target at this point last year.

During Monday’s luncheon, which drew some 150 supporters and agency representatives, Maxwell and other United Way advocates noted how the organization’s work – and its active financial support of local agencies – was needed more than ever. The Twin City area faces numerous challenges including steady unemployment, high numbers of residents lacking adequate medical insurance coverage and a growing number of homeless families and children.

Last year, some 200 school-age children across both Bristol communities and adjacent districts were officially classified as homeless. United Way Executive Director Lisa Cofer acknowledged Monday that the true number is “in actuality, probably much higher.”

“We’ve been working very diligently to address the issue [of homeless children and families],” Cofer said.

Keynote speaker Sharon Hicks, executive director of Family Promise of Bristol – a recently launched organization that teams with 11 area churches to provide assistance, shelter and outreach services to homeless families – briefly fought back tears as she spoke of seeing and hearing the stories of hard-hit families desperately fighting to survive and keep their family units intact.

“When I look at the faces of the children, it breaks my heart,” Hicks told the audience. “They are [in] families really struggling to get back on their feet. We’re going to do all we can to help them.”

Maxwell, who previously noted how United Way organizations played a critical role in helping him live a rich, full life after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, praised local United Way agencies for their daily, selfless work across the Twin City.

“Each of you is an angel,” Maxwell said. “You touch peoples’ lives and lift them up from the adversity they face.”

Reprinted with permission by:  Roger Brown, Bristol Herald Courier

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