United Way raises sights; Goal is $41 million, 4.2% more than last year's total; Undesignated gifts sought


The United Way of Central Maryland announced a goal of $41 million for its 1999 campaign yesterday, a 4.2 percent increase over the amount raised last year.

President Larry E. Walton kicked off the campaign yesterday as United Way's annual "Day of Caring" drew 1,400 volunteers to 64 sites around the region for community projects such as planting trees, ice cream socials for children and events for seniors.

About $6.2 million of the goal has been raised through "early bird" campaigns, run during the summer by a number of companies before the official campaign kickoff. Early bird drives raised more than $4 million last year.

"The early bird campaigns have really gone strong," said J. Scott Wilfong, volunteer chairman of the campaign and president of the Maryland region of Crestar Bank. "I really think we have a lot of momentum going into this campaign."

This year's campaign will include an effort to increase undesignated donations that are spread among the 140 member agencies and affiliates that make up United Way of Central Maryland, which serves Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties.

Despite last year's record campaign total of $39.4 million, the organization's board cut allocations to members, saying that gifts designated by donors for specific agencies -- some of which are not members of United Way -- had increased substantially.

To discourage designations this year, officials have quietly placed the section where such gifts can be made on the back of the United Way pledge form, raising the ire of some agencies that depend on those donations.

Wilfong also has launched a "millennium club," a special fund-raising initiative to match gifts of $100,000 a year for three years. That initiative is aimed at strengthening the pool of undesignated gifts.

Wilfong said yesterday that the Annie E. Casey Foundation has committed $300,000 to match contributions in the millennium drive, and that two other foundations are close to contributing.

He noted other encouraging signs. Several large companies have agreed for the first time to run campaigns. Also, United Way's Alexis de Tocqueville Society, which includes donors of $10,000 or more, has grown by 32 members this year, and some of those have doubled their commitments from $10,000 to $20,000 and from $25,000 to $50,000.

In addition, more than 50 corporations gave their employees time off yesterday to work on community projects.

"It's a way to give back to the community," said Debbie Mikolajczyk, an administrative assistant at Procter & Gamble Co., who planted trees in Hampden for the Jones Falls Valley Celebration this month. "I'm doing something that I think is very helpful."

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