The United Way of Bristol remains about 20 percent shy of its $1.3 million fundraising goal and will continue its community efforts to reach that mark, said Lisa Cofer, the chapter’s executive director.

“We’re so close, but failure really isn’t an option for us,” Cofer said of the Bristol chapter, which provides funding to 29 area non-profit agencies and assists thousands of Tri-Cities residents each year.

Added Cofer: “When you consider all of the individuals and families that depend on our agencies, and how their numbers keep growing, it’s just not an option for us to fall short of the goal.”

Currently, the United Way has raised $1.035 million — or 79.6 percent – of the goal set for the annual campaign, which began in August.

And although some previously pledged contributions still must be collected, the outstanding money would still “leave us a little short” of the target, she added.

“We just have to continue to go out in the community and meet with folks,” Cofer said. “We’ve just got to get people to understand that if we don’t meet our goal, our agencies won’t have the resources to provide the levels of help they provide in our community.”

During last year’s campaign, the Bristol chapter raised $1.329 million – easily surpassing its $1.25 million goal.

Cofer said United Way agencies throughout Bristol are now addressing the growing problem of homeless children in both communities. She said many non-profit groups are also scrambling to meet rising requests for food vouchers, which have increased 60 percent since last year.

“It’s the little crises that people face in their lives, every day, that our agencies really help our residents deal with,” Cofer said. “Unfortunately, the needs are simply rising faster than the [donations] right now.”

Bristol lawyer Nell King Bieger, chairwoman for the current campaign, said the recent downturn in the local economy – including eliminated or reduced jobs at several major area companies – has had an effect on donations.

“But [the downturn] has also generated an even greater need throughout the community for the services our agencies provide,” Bieger said. “We’re at a point where those of us who do have jobs really have a perfect opportunity to help our neighbors by donating to the United Way, and we need to use it. We’re all in this community boat together.”

Other area chapters are finding mixed success in reaching fundraising goals this year.

Danelle Glasscock, executive director of the United Way of Kingsport, said that chapter reached its $3.625 million goal in mid-November.

“We’ve been extremely fortunate to have a great number of businesses and individuals come forward, and allow us to reach our goal,” Glasscock said.

Travis Staton, chief executive officer for the United Way of Russell and Washington Counties, said that chapter has raised $1.08 million – or 90 percent – of its $1.2 million goal.

“It’s been a tough year right now,” Staton said. “But we’ve been working hard on reaching our goal. And we’ll keep working hard on it.”

Reprinted with permission by:  Bristol Herald Courier

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