ALBANY -- United Way of Southwest Georgia announced Thursday morning that $1.2 million has been raised by local corporate companies on behalf of the organization.
At least $5,000 of that came from a source United Way officials hadn't expected when the campaign started last fall. On Thursday, officials with The Albany Herald presented United Way with a check funded by the first-ever "peach edition" of The Herald, which was published on Dec. 29. Special advertisements in that edition, which was printed on peach-colored paper, resulted in the newspaper making a $5,000 donation on Thursday.
"It was a way to promote a great organization," said Herald Advertising Director Tami Abbott, who made the presentation. "In the peach Herald, we also put out a lot of information about what United Way does. We wanted to something more."
Nine local companies campaigned for donation dollars from September to December for the United Way, said Beverly Willson, 2009 Campaign chair.
Because the economy has been showing some signs of bouncing back, United Way officials said they were hoping donations this year would improve. Willson said donations did not go up, but, thankfully, neither did they decline. The total from this year's campaign remained even with last year's $1.2 million.
"We have some good news to share, thanks to the heart of these companies and their employees," she said. "We are going to have $1.2 million to put back into programs for the community."
The United Way works with 36 agencies in a dozen counties, including Dougherty and Lee. Among those are the American Red Cross, the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Boy Scouts, Girls Inc., Meals on Wheels, the Salvation Army, Liberty House and others.
Donald Bates of Tara Foods said the United Way's support for other agencies is one of the many reasons Tara Foods donate to the organization.
"Tara Foods have been supporting the United Way for 30 years," he said. "Our associates are very giving and they genuinely care. They don't mind giving money if they know it being used for good."
Vince Falcione of Procter & Gamble said the United Way has always been a good steward of donation dollars. "It is our mission at P&G to support the United Way and be good citizens," he said. "It's part of what we do as a community."
Willson said in addition to campaigning within P&G for support for United Way, Falcione has also volunteered numerous times for the organization.
"I've held about every volunteer position there is," Falcione joked.
Willson said the corporate campaigns were a success because of the human factor.
"Person-to-person contact really makes a difference," she said. "When lawyers approach lawyers and ask if they can donate to the United Way, you don't realize how big a difference that makes."
Many of the companies applauded the generosity of their personnel.
"Even with the slow economy, our associates still find a way to give," said Garrett Tukes of Publix.
Margaret Windeham of Palmyra Medical Center said the hospital donation increased 28 percent this year from last year's numbers.
"We understand that it doesn't matter how much you give, it's that you are giving," she said. "It is a lot easier when times are good to be generous. These numbers are amazing considering our economic climate."
Greg Wright of SB&T said most of the employees of the bank live in work in the community and were more than happy to unite behind United Way.
"We live here," he said. "We want to make sure everyone is taken care of."
Brad Hallford of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital said it was his first year as a campaign director for the United Way at Phoebe.
He said he was willing to volunteer because of the relief efforts he saw the United Way do during Hurricane Katrina when he was living in New Orleans.
"I saw firsthand and experienced the work that the United Way does," said Wright. "When (Phoebe) was looking for someone to lead the campaign, I said, 'I'll do it.'"
The United Way welcomed a newcomer to the organization's corporate campaign this year.
Pfizer, formerly Wyeth, joined in the campaign to support the United Way for the first time. "We have 71 employees that were loyal to the United Way and to its purpose," said Andre Stevenson of Pfizer. "We look forward to working with the United Way in the future."
Pfizer donated $30,000 to the United Way this year.
City of Albany employees increased their giving this year by 50 percent, Willson said.
Albany City Manager Alfred Lott said the campaign was split between two departments and acknowledged the hard work of city personnel in increasing the donations during tough economic times.
The Albany Herald's contribution to the United Way increased from last year's amount by 40 percent.
Dan McCarthy, United Way of Southwest Georgia board chairman, said the organization is thankful to all the companies that participated in the campaign and hoped that others will soon follow.
"There is room for lots of us," he said.