Originally created 09/06/97

United Way to get fund-raiser started



With a different twist, the United Way of the CSRA will kickoff its annual fund-raising campaign at noon Monday at Lake Olmstead Stadium.

"We want to create some excitement and make it a fun community event," said Keith Benson, chief professional officer and president of the agency. It funds 30 health and human service organizations such as the Augusta Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Central Savannah River Girl Scout Council and the Augusta Training Shop for the Handicapped.

Instead of the traditional luncheon and keynote speaker to mark the beginning of the 91/2 - week capital campaign, this year's kickoff will feature a "ballpark" lunch at the stadium, Lakeside High School's cheerleaders, T.W. Josey's marching band and more than 300 elementary school children to help the United Way celebrate, said Mr. Benson.

"We've had a lot of wonderful reactions," he said. "People really like the change. People at companies say, `Only the bosses can go to a sit-down luncheon, but we can go to this.' "

Former CNN anchor Andrea Arceneaux will be the emcee for the event.

United Way officials will announce the campaign goal at the kickoff and will recognize the 50 Pacesetter companies that ran their campaigns early.

Last year, the United Way raised more than $3.4 million with sights set on raising $5 million in the year 2000.

Mr. Benson said the goal has not yet been established, but the increment increase will be in line with reaching that higher mark.

Some other priorities in this campaign include targeting more leadership givers, people who give more than $500 a year. Leadership giving increased from 2 percent of the campaign total in 1995 to more than 10 percent last year.

Another important area is that of employee participation. Last year, only about 38 percent of employees participated in their companies' campaigns. In Savannah last year, nearly 70 percent of employees took part.

" `It's moving upward, but we still have a lot of potential,' " he said.

Tickets for the kickoff event are $6. For more information, call 724-5544.