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United Way fund raising shows some steady gains

More volunteers and a renewed awareness of community need are helping the local United Way campaign rebound from a difficult year, organizers said.

Six weeks into a &

36;1.02 million fund drive, nearly &

36;426,000 already has been pledged, amounting to about 42 percent of the goal, said Dee Anne Everson, the executive director of the United Way of Jackson County.

That's 4 percent ahead of pledges at this time last year and 7 percent ahead of 2000.

It's the highest we've been, ever, said Everson.

And it's good news after last year's effort, which posted a five-year low. The campaign raised &

36;973,000, off 13 percent from the &

36;1.12 million goal. Organizers cited the effects of the Sept. 11 terror attacks and a slumping economy as reasons for the decline.

Brad Earl, the Bear Creek Corp. executive leading the campaign, said he hoped for more public support.

It seems like when you've gone through a down period, the year following that seems to rebound, Earl said. It's sort of the underdog thing.

Already this year, momentum has been growing, said Everson and Earl. More than 60 community volunteers have agreed to help raise funds through workplaces around the Rogue Valley.

This year, the volunteers are doing a lot more in-person stuff, Everson said.

In addition, there seems to be a shift in community awareness of the reason the money is needed.

United Way supports 34 member agencies ranging from Community Works, one of Medford's largest social service agencies, to Mediation Works, one of the smallest.

It's not just raising dollars, it's raising consciousness, Earl said. There seems to be the feeling out there that, 'Oh, wait a minute, our community is in need and it's time to give back.'

So far, the drive seems to have attracted both new participants and more money.

Of course, Earl added, the proof is in the final collections, which won't be tallied for months.

We're setting a rapid pace, that's the good news, Earl said. But the real good news will be when the campaigns come in.

For more information, call 773-5339.

Reach reporter JoNel Aleccia at 776-4465, or e-mail