United Way aims to raise $4.22 million in midstate

United Way of Central Georgia announced Thursday its plans to raise $4.22 million during its annual campaign.

At the Cox Capital Theatre in downtown Macon, the agency kicked off its four-month fundraising drive to raise money for 77 local health and human service programs of 37 agencies.

This year’s goal is about 2 percent more than was designated for member agencies last year, said Ron Watson, president and CEO of the agency.

Although the agency set a goal of $4.5 million last September, and raised $4,508,751, Watson said last year’s numbers included $163,409 raised for last year’s tornado victims and $200,000 from the Peyton Anderson Foundation to support after-school programs in Bibb County.

When these one-time amounts are excluded, the amount raised last year for member agencies was about $4.1 million, he said.

Campaign chairman Jim Manley, president and CEO of SunTrust Bank, Middle Georgia, said the economy has been tough on fundraising, and that’s not expected to change soon.

“We had a really tough year last year like all of you in your businesses,” Manley said to the gathering of about 100 people. “But we are starting to see glimmers of hope.”

Raising money from corporations is not expected to be as tough this year as raising money from employees because of general unemployment in the area, he said after his presentation. But the growth at Geico insurance, which has been United Way’s largest contributor for several years, and the addition of other supporters such as the new Publix on Bass Road, is expected to help the agency meet its goal, he said.

A car will be raffled off for the second consecutive year to help the agency. Raffle tickets for a 2010 Toyota Camry are $25 each, and only 3,500 tickets will be sold. Tickets are available at The Telegraph, United Way, SunTrust Bank and Wells Fargo (formerly Wachovia Bank). The drawing will be held Nov. 7.

“There is a lot of incredible work being done. ... There are literally thousands of people involved in this effort,” Manley said. “I look forward to a wonderful campaign.”

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.