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United Way campaign kicks off

| Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008

The company leading the way in this year's United Way of Mon Valley fundraising campaign has taken a different angle to raising money for the charity.

First Federal Savings Bank, of Monessen, is conducting the first online donation campaign in the United Way branch's history.

The charity has conducted annual solicitations each year since 1961.

The organization chose First Federal to be this year's campaign "pacesetter," the first company that begins collecting donations.

Mon Valley United Way executive director Phil Sparacella said Sam Abbott, information technology administrator at the First Federal branch, suggested that the bank employees turn in their donations via computer.

Employees donating to the United Way usually fill out donation slips indicating how much they would like deducted from their paychecks.

Sparacella said United Way officials will ask other donating companies to follow the lead if the online campaign runs smoothly.

"We're getting up with technology," he said. "We're very excited and curious to see how the system will work this year. I think it is convenience...I think it will get done quicker. Sometimes, with paper, you put it to the side for a few days. I think it going to be a quicker process."

A total of 45 workplaces in the Mid-Mon Valley ask employees to donate.

Workplace donations make up about 70 percent of the campaign contributions.

Last year, the campaign pulled in $360,268 - comfortably above the $355,000 goal, which is the mark set for this year.

In 2006, the United Way raised about $365,000. In 2005, the effort pulled in slightly more than $380,000, shortly after campaign coordinator Pam Messina began working with Sparacella.

The two have established more intensive workplace solicitation, new angles on campaign promotional videos and the institution of the United Way's Impact Fund, which ensures that donations are filtered back into local organizations.

The fund is designed to allow each United Way sector to pinpoint which areas need the money most in their service area.

In the Mon Valley, donations go through three components in the Impact Fund called Kids Matter, Seniors Matter and Basic Needs Matter.

Kids Matter benefits services that help prevent child abuse and neglect and provide early education and after school care.

Seniors Matter is geared toward keeping older residents safe and independent.

Basic Needs Matter focuses on helping agencies that assist families in need and working families.

Donors can choose to direct part or all of their donations to the Impact Fund. The money will then be allocated to the three sub-categories.

About 75 percent of the money received went to the Impact Fund last year.

Sparacella said this campaign marks a shift in focus for all of the United Way of America branches.

"We want to push more on child care, early education for children and financial stability for families and try to work with health issues of people," he said.

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