By SHERRI L. SHAULIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- With speeches peppered with car racing phrases, United Way officials gathered to kick off the 2002 fund-raising campaign.
With "Team United Way" and racing motifs decorating the National Packard Museum, the campaign got off to a strong start Thursday, with campaign pacesetter organizations reporting more than $621,000 in donations so far.
But things are a little different this year, explained campaign chairman Donald E. Moore of Trumco Insurance Agency. Rather than set a strict monetary goal, campaign officials are looking to fulfill broader goals.
When the campaign has a set goal -- actually an arbitrary figure picked each year -- if that number is missed, it gives the appearance the campaign was not successful, he said.
"Rather than a pure dollar amount, this year's goal reflects perhaps even greater challenges," he said.
Last year, more than $2.53 million was raised for United Way's agencies.
In addition to raising more money than last year, the goals are to expand the giving base, increase participation from employees of all participating companies, increase corporate gifts, grow in the area of leadership giving, increase awareness of United Way's value to the community and build endowments for the future through a Legacy Society.
The change in approach may be indirectly attributed to terrorist attacks last year, which led many people to change where their charitable contributions went.
"Just as we rallied then to honor our national heroes ... now it is important for us to support our local heroes: the volunteers and United Way agencies helping people in need every day," Moore said.
Moore said it was unfortunate that last year, throughout the nation, local agencies saw fewer dollars as many people sent contributions to relief funds in New York City. That, combined with the downturn in the economy, sometimes left support agencies suffering.
James L. Crouse, vice chairman of the 2002 campaign, noted without local support, the 29 agencies and programs supported by United Way might be forced to cut back on services or shut down completely.
"I don't know of any better way to spend your time and money on your community" than through United Way, he said.
In addition to rallying speeches and campaign updates, the kickoff festivities included the Trumbull Race of Champions, a series of Pinewood Derby-like races. Trophies were awarded to the leading racers in the categories of pacesetter organizations, United Way affiliate agencies and the press.
The Vindicator took the trophy in the press category, racing the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine made by Boy Scout Brandon Buratti, 8, of Howland.
Boy Scout Troop 122 took home first place in the United Way affiliates category, and Second National Bank won in the pacesetters' category.