Lowndes County United Way

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The 2005 fundraising season is about to begin for the Valdosta Area United Way, and leaders say things are off to a good start as everyone unites to help the thousands in need. A couple of local governments are putting aside their differences to help with the cause.

Some might consider it a rare sight as the Valdosta City and Lowndes County governments stood side by side on Tuesday to work together and kick off the 2005 United Way campaign.

Rod Casey, Lowndes County Chairman, says, "We decided to have a pace setter program made up of county department heads that would get their money in early and kick this thing off and give the United Way a boost, and this year the city and county decided to do it together."

Larry Hanson, Valdosta City Manager, adds, "The United Way serves so many local agencies and individuals and many of those needs would ultimately become the responsibility and place more demand on government services if it were not for groups like the United Way."

Leaders say having the city and county come together to help get the fundraising started is a great way to start the 50th annual campaign in the Valdosta area.

Leigh Tolbert, United Way Campaign Director, says, "We started out raising about $25,000 for the first year back in 1954, and now over the past few years we've raised over $1 million each year, so that shows the generosity of our community. There are 117 programs that receive funding through the United Way campaign through 27 different agencies in the Valdosta area. It’s very, very important to help keep those programs going. Our goal is $1.2 million and we feel that's a good stretch goal, but it's a reachable goal if we all come together."

If the metro Valdosta community follows the lead of its two biggest governments, it should be a season of cooperation and giving, helping make a difference for thousands of people.

The United Way of the Big Bend will start its campaign season on the 26th with a huge kickoff celebration at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center.