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United Way kicks off campaign

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- The United Way of Southwest Georgia still has its sights set on making the community a better place, but with a slightly different approach this time.

The organization hosted its 2010 campaign kick-off and "Day of Caring" event Thursday at Darton College.

At the event, officials outlined their new strategic plan to allow United Way to utilize a results-oriented approach in four specific areas so officials can more effectively determine how much funding should be spent where.

"As we implement this plan, we will do a lot of good things for the area," said Jim Deal, strategic plan chairman for United Way.

The four focus areas will be education, health, income and basic necessities. The hope is that this approach will better address issues currently plaguing the community, such as teen pregnancy, illiteracy and financial instability.

"I'm excited about the direction (the organization) is going in," said United Way CEO Dwayne Myles.

United Way has set a goal of $1.5 million for its 2010 campaign, a target officials feel confident they will hit despite recent economic circumstances.

"We think we'll do well," said Lorenzo Keaton, this year's United Way board chairman.

More than 800 invitations were sent out for Thursday's event. The fact that many of the seats were filled shows a lot of enthusiasm for the path United Way is on, Keaton said.

"(The strategic plan) will do a lot; it will measure outcomes and help target areas," he said. "We just want to make a difference.

"We feel good about the response. This may be the best year we've ever had."

The new approach will also engage more people in United Way's efforts, as well as teach people how to be sustainable, the organization's CEO said.

"The end result will be community change," Myles said. "United Way is concerned about community conditions. We will collaborate and bring people together."

Following the event, more than 20 teams of volunteers were spread out to cover assigned project sites at various non-profit agencies in the effort to improve facilities or programs.

Among these volunteers were representatives from Albany's military community. Nearly 200 Marines and civilian employees from Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany and Marine Corps Logistics Command participated in this year's "Day of Caring," volunteering at locations across the region.

"This truly is a good thing, and I'm honored to be a small part of it," said Maj. Gen. James Kessler, commanding general of Marine Corps Logistics Command. "When too many people are faced (with hard times), we must come together."

Volunteers were expected to do everything from painting and rebuilding to washing windows, raking leaves, cleaning debris and mopping stalls.

"We obviously are part of the community," Kessler said after the kick-off event. "It's a privilege we have this opportunity. We are in a position to help them."

United Way raised $1.2 million during its 2009 campaign, $300,000 less than its initial goal. Tara Foods, Palmyra Medical Center and Procter & Gamble were the pacesetters that year.

SunTrust Bank was named the campaign pacesetter this year, meaning that the company started its fundraising efforts early.

United Way supports more than 17 agencies and programs in the community.

An outline of the organization's strategic plan is available at www.unitedwayswga.org.