Despite falling about 7 percent short of its 2010 fundraising goal, United Way of the Lowcountry officials and volunteers gathered in Beaufort to celebrate what some called a great victory for the community.
United Way ended its public campaign Friday at 93 percent of its $2.6 million target, raising more than $2.42 million.
"Some may look at this as not reaching the goal," Randy Krause, chairman of the Beaufort area campaign, said during the event on Boundary Street. "But we look at it as the glass being almost full. ... This community has really stepped up to the plate."
This latest campaign marks the third consecutive year the organization has not met its goal.
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The 2009 campaign brought in $2,415,155 -- about 96 percent of that year's $2.5 million target. In 2008, it fell about $125,000 shy of the $2.7 million goal.
Tom Henz, chairman of the United Way's board of directors, said organizers expected another difficult campaign, given the economy and number of people unemployed or fearing unemployment. Yet it is also a time when more are in need.
"The demand for funding has been greater than at any time," Henz said.
Attention now turns to divvying the $2,420,678 among United Way's 39 partner agencies and services in Beaufort and Jasper counties.
A committee of 60 volunteers determines each year how the annual campaign contributions will be distributed.
Charities and programs will receive quarterly payments from United Way beginning this month, said Jill Briggs, the agency's vice president.
Volunteers monitor how recipient agencies use the donations, Briggs said.
The payments are crucial to many local organizations, such as Born to Read, a nonprofit group that promotes early literacy among new parents at Beaufort Memorial Hospital and Hilton Head Hospital.
United Way's contributions make up more than one-third of the organization's $55,000 annual budget, Born to Read executive director Chris Taggart said.
"It makes all the difference to us," Taggart said. "We couldn't survive without their support."
Though the public campaign has ended, United Way will continue accepting donations throughout the year.
United Way officials credited the agency's more than 300 volunteers and its donors with achieving success despite the economic climate.
"The people who understand United Way have been as generous as they can be," said Kaye Black, who headed the Hilton Head area campaign with her husband, Joe Black. "I think the challenge is to get people to realize that 39 agencies that touch people's life every day really depend on the organization."