MERCER COUNTY United Way chairman mounts aggressive drive

Buck A Day donations and Blitz Day are just part of the new approach to meeting the campaign goal.
SHARON, Pa. -- The fund-raising campaigns of United Way of Mercer County haven't done so well over the past couple of years.
The fall fund drives have stretched out as long as six months, and though the United Way was able to just reach its 1999 goal of $1,050,000, it fell short of the $1.1 million mark set for last year.
The chairman of the 2001 campaign is taking a more aggressive approach.
Stephen Gurgovits, president of First National Bank of Pennsylvania, launched an intense campaign Sept. 1 and said it will end with a Blitz Day on Oct. 19.
The success of each year's effort depends on the amount of volunteer help it gets, Gurgovits said.
Allowing a campaign to stretch out over six months results in a loss of intensity by those working on it, he said, explaining that focus is the key word in the 2001 fund drive.
"We're trying to re-energize the campaign this year," Gurgovits said. "It's going to take everybody working to reach our goal."
The United Way is again seeking $1.1 million to help fund 25 human-service agencies.
How it's going: The materials are out, employee campaigns are under way and initial reports show that contributions are up, said Jim Micsky, executive director.
"Our campaigns are not easy," said Gurgovits, a veteran of more than 25 of the fund drives. He served as chairman in 1987.
"The needs of our [member] agencies are not diminishing," he said, explaining the need to reverse the trend of the last couple of years.
"I'm seeing a lot of energy in the campaign," Micsky said, adding that, in light of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., the United Way is pushing the fact that three of its member agencies -- the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross and Catholic Charities -- all have national affiliations and need all the support they can get.
He pointed out, however, that donations to the United Way of Mercer County stay here with 99 cents of every dollar collected being spent in this community.
"I think we'll learn from this campaign because we are trying some new things," Gurgovits said.
Those that succeed will likely be carried forward into future fund drives, he said.
New ideas: One of those new things is a "Buck A Week" donation theme for first-time givers.
With approximately 57,000 employed in the county, $1 a week could generate nearly $3 million in revenues, Micsky said.
"No matter what you're doing, $1 a week is affordable," Gurgovits said.
Other new approaches include efforts by the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce to sell patriotic buttons with proceeds designated for the United Way Drive, and of First National Bank, with some help from Sharon Regional Health System, to market patriotic T-shirts at $10 each.
Proceeds from the T-shirt sales will go specifically to the Red Cross, Salvation Army and Catholic Charities, Gurgovits said.
The campaign also got a major boost from the O'Brien Family Memorial Fund, which has its annual fund-raising clambake Oct. 10.
Gurgovits said the fund has promised to donate half of the clambake proceeds to the United Way, an offer that could mean between $20,000 and $25,000 for the campaign.
Blitz Day will take place in a tent in Hermitage Square Plaza and will run something like a telethon with businesses bringing in their pledges and new totals being announced over live radio broadcasts, Gurgovits said.

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