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United Way beats goal, raises $800,000

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By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — The United Way of Addison County (UWAC) is putting the finishing touches on a 2007 fund-raising campaign that has thus far yielded an all-time record $801,350 for services to the area’s neediest citizens.

“Bob (LaFiandra) and I are very pleased,” said Ann LaFiandra, who co-chaired the 2007 fund drive with her husband.

The couple was particularly gratified by the way donors comfortably exceeded what had been a $760,000 goal. The books don’t officially close on the campaign until Feb. 29.

“We were stunned, but in a way not surprised, because this is a very caring community,” LaFiandra said. “We honestly did not have to hard-sell.”

As of Tuesday, UWAC had received 2,144 contributions ranging from payroll deductions of 50 cents to individual checks in excess of $10,000.

Individual donations, once again, formed the bulk of UWAC’s humanitarian harvest in 2007. Helen Freismuth, co-director of the local United Way, said 250 people gave a combined total of $438,000 in the “Robert Frost” category of giving. Donors in that category agree to pledge $1,000 or more.

Kate McGowan, also co-director of UWAC, said Robert Frost contributions were up some this year because some longtime donors bumped up their gifts to keep up with inflation. Others put up matching pledges to induce more donations in that category.

Payroll deductions accounted for 36 percent of the $801,350 that poured in this year. Freismuth noted a 5 percent increase in Middlebury College-related payroll contributions this year.

The LaFiandras proved very successful in pleading UWAC’s cause among local businesses and institutions.

Robert LaFiandra, a local physician, was able to speak with local professionals about contributions, while Ann LaFiandra — an English/foreign language teacher at the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center — took the agency’s message to the education community.

Their efforts received a huge boost from a cadre of dedicated United Way volunteers and staff, Ann LaFiandra said.

“There was an army of experienced volunteers,” she said. “It’s astounding.”

The LaFiandras were also pleased to get a first-hand look at the needs of the community, and view grassroots efforts at fund-raising. One of those efforts saw area basketball enthusiasts gather pledges for shooting foul shots. That annual event raised more than $3,000 that will be earmarked for youth-related causes.

Area restaurants once again put on special events and deals to raise money for the United Way campaign.

“People were very creative,” LaFiandra said.

Those that weren’t able to donate a lot of money stepped up to donate their time and specials skills to the campaign, Freismuth added.

Volunteers will spend the coming days determining how the campaign money will be apportioned among the many nonprofit human services agencies that are part of the UWAC family.

“We do take the stewardship of these community funds very seriously,” Freismuth said.

UWAC officials are already planning ahead for the 2008 fund-raising campaign, which will kick off next September.

They are confident local residents and businesses will again respond to the call.

“We are really fortunate to be in such a supportive community,” McGowan said.

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