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United Way looking for funds after dissappointing drive

Although final numbers are not yet calculated, the Pike County United Way is expecting to have raised about one-third of their $100,000 goal, said Jane Thrash, bookkeeper for the charity.

"We're still waiting to hear how much we are going to get from the payroll deductions for Troy City and Brundidge utilities and the Southeast Alabama Electric Cooperative," she said. "They usually start figuring that out after the first of the year, so we should have totals before the end of the month."

Thrash estimated the United Way, which acts as an umbrella for other area charity and non-profit groups, would finish with about $33,000 to distribute to Pike County agencies such as the American Red Cross, the 4-H Club, the House of Ruth battered women's shelter and the Troy Charity League.

In total, the United Way funds will be distributed to 15 agencies, but the fund-raising has left the group well short of the $100,000 goal set last year.

Still, Thrash said the fund-raising has continued throughout January and she encouraged Pike County residents to give something back to the agencies that often help some of the less-privileged people in the area.

One way people can do that -- and have some fun at the same time -- is to attend the basketball toss competition at the Troy State basketball game on Feb. 8. In addition to watching TSU take on hated rival Jacksonville State, people will be able to pay one dollar to the United Way and compete for a $500 savings bond.

"This will be the fourth game that we've done the competition and we've already made over $600. People can shoot at a hoop in the middle of the floor and if they make it, they win $500," Thrash said. "People love it. They can have fun and give money to a good cause at the same time -- not to mention that they can win things."

Thrash said the United Way would be handing out five consolation prizes in addition to the $500 savings bond from Regions Bank. In addition, several of the groups that benefit from United Way funds have been helping to put on the competitions, including the Boys and Girls Club and the Boy and Girls Scouts.

According to Thrash, the funds from the competition will combine with funds still trickling in from outlying areas to produce one last addition to the payroll deductions and corporate donations from the previous year.

"I really want to give a big thanks for those who made $20 per household contributions," Thrash said. "If every household gave $20, we could fund agencies at 100 percent."

That would be a stark change for the Pike County United Way, which has struggled to get businesses to participate in its payroll deduction plan, whereby employees volunteer to have a fraction of their paychecks donated to the United Way. The organization has not been able to fulfill its goals to each of the agencies it serves for several years, leaving those groups receiving only pro-rated checks.

Part of the problem, Thrash said, may be some of the bad national press that the United Way has received lately. National chapters of the group have been accused of mismanaging funds in recent years -- including allegations of double-counting revenue -- leading to a recent declaration by the group that auditing practices would be revised.

"Problems at the national United Ways can hurt the local United Ways, but all of our money stays local," Thrash said.

Thrash said the new auditing policies were "really nothing new."

"They've just started to enforce the rules more, but we don't have any administrative costs and don't have an office to rent," she said. "We pay some postage, but we report everything to the national agency."

Under the guidelines, approved at a meeting in Phoenix on Wednesday, all local United Way chapters will report revenue and expenses to the national organization for independent reviews, and the 170 largest United Way chapters will submit annual reports, financial audits and ethics codes for review.