Harford County fund-raisers for the United Way of Central Maryland have set a goal of $285,027 in this year's campaign, which begins Oct. 9.
"The demand for services in the county is greater than ever before," said G. Jeremiah Ryan, a Harford Community College vice president who is chairman of this year's campaign.
"Homelessness, poverty, health issues, child abuse and the elderly are all issues that require our immediate attention," he said.
There are more than a dozen social services agencies in Harford that receive United Way support.
This year's goal represents an increase of more than 10 percent over the amount raised last year, Mr. Ryan said, and includes corporate and individual contributions.
TTC Most individuals who contribute to United Way do so through payroll deduction plans at their places of employment.
Harford contributions have declined steadily during the past few years, from an all-time high of $396,580 in 1991 to $249,636 last year, Mr. Ryan said.
"This is a nationwide trend that we're trying to overcome," he said.
Harford's 20-member volunteer steering committee will focus on increasing the number of contributors this year, rather than the value of individual gifts, Mr. Ryan said.
Last year, employees at about 100 businesses in the county participated in the campaign. Still, 80 percent of the total collected came from contributors at only 25 businesses, he said.
This year, the committee will seek participation from 1,500 businesses in the county.
"We realize it's going to be a multiyear effort to get United Way fully integrated into the business community here," Mr. Ryan said.
In 1994, about $1.2 million in United Way funds went to Harford health and human services, benefiting about 93,000 people.
Mr. Ryan noted that individuals who contribute through their employer can earmark their gifts to specific Harford agencies.
He said 87 cents of every dollar contributed to the umbrella organization goes to providing services to the needy.
Among the Harford agencies to receive funds this year are the Boys and Girls Clubs of Harford County, Family and Children's Services, the Sexual Assault/Spouse Abuse Resource Center and the YWCA.
The campaign will continue through Thanksgiving.