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Volunteers kick-off Lower Valley United Way fundraising effort for 2011-12

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United Way President Mark Todd speaks to volunteers at yesterday's kick-off party.

When he started as a volunteer with United Way, it was in cooperation with his employer. Now, Sunnyside's Loran Hancock has been a volunteer with United Way in the Yakima Valley for nearly 28 years.

He began in 1967 but kept with it because of the high level of integrity in the organization.

"It's a credible organization," he said. "As a donor you can pick which (agencies) your money will go to."

For the first time in United Way history, the group held its volunteer kick-off event in Sunnyside. Last night (Tuesday) nearly 20 people from all over the Lower Valley, representing various local businesses, gathered at Bon Vino's to kick-off this year's fundraising project.

At the meeting the group launched the collaboration of United Way groups in Granger, Grandview, Mabton, Outlook and Sunnyside. The group decided to name this co-op G2MOS, representing the partnership between the many towns and cities.

Each year a group of United Way volunteers hit the streets asking local businesses to help donate to the cause.

Last year the group raised approximately $1.85 million. United Way President Mark Todd says the goal this year is $2 million.

"This is an aggressive increase," he said. "The volunteers felt the need to set a stretch-goal (because) the need is so much greater."

The local United Way operates as liaison for local agencies that provide help to those in need. United Way raises money and forms a committee, which decides which agencies and how much to donate to.

"There is no limit to what we can try to do, and to what we can accomplish," Todd said. "It's all about the community coming together."

The Community Investment Team comes together each year to review proposals from various agencies. More money raised means more agencies will be helped each year. This year, heading up the fundraising charge is Dave and Patty Dion who are serving as the 2011-12 campaign chairs.

Well known agencies that are financially supported through United Way G2MOS include the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities House Services, Salvation Army and many more. Last year more than 12,000 people in the G2MOS area were reported as being served through United Way funded programs.

In addition, last year United Way more it possible for more than 23,000 hours of domestic violence advocacy, the placement of six disabled students in workplaces allowing them to complete their senior projects, and training four students resulting in employment.

The agency also provided more than 300 hours of sexual assault prevention and education, 150 hours of programming for senior citizens, over 300 nights of shelter to victims of domestic violence and 322 hours of youth sports.

Interested donors or volunteers can call (509) 248-1557 or visit www.uwcw.org.

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