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United Way Liberty reveals 2011 fundraising goal at kickoff rally
0918 UW kickoff
Army Community Service program manager Diane J. Smith talks about her groups programs with a United Way Liberty kickoff rally attendee. - photo by Hollie Moore Barnidge

The United Way of the Coastal Empire’s Liberty County branch kicked off its portion of the organization’s annual campaign Thursday evening by announcing a slightly increased fundraising goal of $181,000 — $1,000 more than last year’s $180,000 goal.

Two weeks ago, the United Way of the Coastal Empire, which serves Chatham, Bryan, Effingham and Liberty counties, announced its intention to raise a total of $8,255,555 through the four counties’ efforts.

Liberty’s magic number was revealed at the board of education office during a rally that featured drum line showcases, specialized United Way cheers performed by local high school squads, snacks prepared and served by culinary students and informational booths staffed by groups that receive funding from the United Way.

UWCE campaign Chairman Michael Traynor welcomed attendees, thanked event organizers and donors for their contributions and urged those involved in the campaign to inspire others.

"Heroism is contagious. As our heroes move forward in this campaign, others will step up to become heroes in their own right," Traynor said.

The chairman’s words of encouragement were met with cheers and applause from members of the audience who later seized the opportunity to learn more about the causes supported by the charity organization’s Liberty branch.

Attendees collected information and checked out exhibits run by representatives from local groups that benefit from United Way funding, such as Manna House, Senior Citizens Incorporated, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, CASA and Army Community Service.

Diane J. Smith, ACS program manager, expressed gratitude for the assistance her group receives from the United Way.

"With our soldiers and families facing such challenges, it’s so nice to have support from so many areas, including the United Way, which, over the years, has done so much for us," Smith said.

According to UWCE Liberty Director Jennifer Darsey, who was pleasantly surprised by the public outpouring of support Thursday, the appreciation is mutual.

"The amazing turnout just shows the overwhelming community support for the United Way," she said. "These people really care about those who are in need, those who are hungry. It makes me proud to live here."

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