Originally created 08/29/00

United Way kicks off fund-raiser



As officials kicked off their annual fund-raising campaign Monday at Bell Auditorium, the United Way of the CSRA made it clear it was after more than just $4.1 million during the next few months.

"The United Way is about helping people," Robert C. Osborne Jr., chairman of the United Way board of directors, told the more than 600 people in attendance.

Intertwined with official business of announcing the $4.1 million goal were the stories of those who'd been helped and were helping others through the United Way agencies.

The "heroes" the United Way honored included special guest Marie Arnold, a volunteer with the foster grandparent program at a shelter for abused children in Tampa, Fla. A former Augusta resident, "Grandma Marie" as she's better known will be featured in national public service announcements for the United Way.

"Without your help, we would be completely lost. You don't know the need until you get involved," she said.

At the shelter, Grandma Marie, who is the mother of eight, grandmother of 13 and great-grandmother of 23, gives her love and years of experience to the children at the shelter and their parents, a majority of whom spent most of their lives in foster care. One person can make a difference, she said.

"A kind word, a hug, a hello. You can make a difference. You don't know what a person needs," she said.

Local heroes, who are making a difference, also were recognized. They included Bob Putz, 72, a gymnastics coach at the Family Y who volunteers to teach preschoolers and Special Olympians; Yvonne Meeks, who teaches financial management skills through Project Success; and Joe Davis, a former member of the Boys and Girls Club, who volunteers six hours a day, four days a week at the club.

"We're so excited about the 2000 campaign," said Michael Kerner, campaign chairman. "We expect to see great things and to announce many successes at our annual meeting in February 2001."

The United Way's pacesetter companies already have raised more than $800,000 toward this year's goal.

For more information about the United Way campaign, call 724-5544.

Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at (803) 441-6927.