United Way of the Lowcountry kicked off its annual fundraising campaign Thursday and announced a goal of $2.8 million before the end of the year.
Some of that money has already been contributed by 130 "pacesetters" -- companies that jumpstart the fundraiser before the public campaign begins.
But local chapter chairwoman Elizabeth Lamkin said about 50 percent of donations in previous years have come from individuals.
"No matter how small a donation, we need it," Lamkin said. "We'll take a dollar."
Last year's goal was $2.6 million, and chapter president Clarece Walker said about $2.4 million was donated.
The bar was raised further this year in response to needs expressed by the 32 charities and 42 programs in Beaufort and Jasper counties that the campaign helps, Walker said.
"It's needed out there, and we're going to stretch and just try to raise as much as we can raise to meet that need," she said. "And if everybody steps up and does their part, we'll do that."
About 75 people attended the campaign kickoff event at Sun City Hilton Head. This year's theme is "The Power of One, The Power of Many."
Bonnie Bennett, Jasper County campaign vice-chair, told the crowd many in the community have unmet needs.
"At least one-third of the adults who live and work in our community function at the two lowest literacy levels. Twenty-two percent of our children under the age of 5 live in poverty. Over two million pounds of food was provided to the hungry last year," Bennett said. "Those are some alarming statistics. So together, we can make a difference."
Organizers dedicated the event and campaign to Scott Stowe, who was chairman of the local chapter's board before he died unexpectedly last month.
"He really made a difference in this community," Lamkin said. "He is a shining star, and he will be missed."
The organization announced Wednesday that Lamkin, the CEO of PACE Healthcare Commons, had been elected to fill the vacancy.
Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.