United Way of Douglas County raked in record support during its 2003 campaign and met its goal for the first time since 2000, officials announced Thursday.
News of the $1.462 million total, a 6.7 percent increase from the previous year, came as good news to the 27 local agencies that United Way supports, many of which have seen a higher demand for services with the downturn in the economy.
That included Penn House, which provides a variety of services to the poor. About half of its $67,000 annual budget comes from United Way.
"It means a lot to us," said Linda Lassen, director of Penn House. "It basically keeps our doors open. It's good news for us -- really good news."
Campaign leaders set an informal goal of $1.462 million for last year's campaign. It was the same goal set in 2001 and 2002. United Way fell $35,500 and $64,000 short, respectively, in those years.
Last year's formal goal was to increase the total number of donors participating in the campaign by 5 percent in each of 13 donor categories.
Six of the 13 categories met their goal of a 5 percent increase. They were large businesses, Douglas County government, Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Lawrence public schools and Lecompton. Several other categories came close to meeting the 5 percent increase.
One category, commuters whose donations are tallied by United Ways in other communities and sent to Douglas County, has yet to be tallied.
"Broadening the base of support, we thought, was important," said Ted Haggart, campaign chairman. "We also wanted to send the message that each and every donation is important, whether it's small, medium or large. The more people who are willing to step forward and get in the habit of donating annually to United Way will really help facilitate the continued success of United Way campaigns."
Jo Bryant, United Way executive director, said the fund total meant clients of agencies that depend on United Way funds shouldn't see a decrease in the level of services.
"That makes me so happy and relieved," she said. "I'm just really pleased that we won't have to lower support."
That was a comfort to Lassen, the Penn House director. She said she had seen a 25 percent increase in the number of clients served in the past three years, up to 7,000 last year.
"The need is out there," she said. "I hope people realize that and keep giving."