United Way touches folks in Hamilton and surrounding counties in many ways. Their 23 diverse agencies reach out to the community and offer a helping hand where often there is no other.

United Way kicked off its 2004 campaign with an outdoor supper at Lake City Community College, Sept. 30, attended by 231 volunteers and their families. The theme of this year's campaign is Touching Generations.

Through agencies like Happy House, an early-childhood program, the Police Athletic League, Suwannee Valley 4-Cs and the Guardian ad Litem program, United Way touches children from all walks of life. Campaign Chair Garry Karsner said this year's campaign is looking at raising additional funds for the programs affecting children.

"Each name on a waiting list is a child in a family needing community services," Karsner said in his speech to kick off this year's campaign.

Karsner also said there are several much-needed community programs such as Another Way and Vivid Visions in danger of losing their primary funding from the state if necessary improvements to their facilities are not made. These two organizations currently do not meet the state's expectations for certified shelters. United Way wants to help but must raise more money this year if that help is to be provided.

United Way also reaches out to seniors, promoting independence and wellness with help to the Hamilton Council on Aging and Columbia County Senior services. The list of agencies and organizations promoted and helped through funding from United Way is extensive and far-reaching.

"Each of the 23 agencies provides necessary services to our community's families, children and elderly," Karsner said.

United Way's goal for this year's campaign is $622,000 three percent higher than last year.

Janet Schrader may be reached by calling 1-800-525-4182 ext. 134 or by emailing janet.schrader@gaflnews.com.

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