The 2012 London Olympic torch may be doused, but for the United Way, the torch is just being lit.
Local volunteers and organization representatives met at the Girl Scouts Service Center on Horton Road on Wednesday. There, they kicked off the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County campaign with an Olympic theme, complete with candle-lighting to represent the Olympic torch.
"The London Games may be over, but the Olympics are just getting started in southern Chautauqua County," said Vince Horrigan, campaign chair. "Our pacesetters have done a fantastic job getting us off the blocks, now it's time to finish the race."
This year's goal is set at $1,310,000. The pacesetters, who include local businesses and organizations, began their campaign early. Together with Leadership Circle donations, donations from retirees and the Pacesetter campaign, $220,980 has already been raised toward the goal.
"It's $10,000 more than our goal was last year. It is slightly less than what we actually raised last year," said Tory Irgang, United Way of Southern Chautauqua County executive director.
When setting the goal, Irgang said a number of factors are taken into account. The goal this year is $10,000 more than last year's goal, but less than what was actually raised last year. Irgang said the United Way considers long-time donors that are no longer in the community, due to passing away or moving away. Additionally, it factors in whether companies have been laying off or hiring. Finally, it considers the needs of the community.
"Sometimes, we wonder how we'll make (our goal)," Irgang said. "But, we know we have to hit it in order to really sustain services that are needed in the community, and in order to grow and develop things that are new and will help our community be on better footing."
This year, the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County has roughly 60 volunteers who will be helping set the campaign in motion. At Wednesday's opening ceremonies, volunteers held up supportive signs, heard from the Boys & Girls Club of Jamestown and generally got their game faces ready for the campaign. At the end of the rally, each team lit a candle as a symbol of the torch being passed.
"These are our volunteers who will go out and deliver packets and make calls on organizations that are running campaigns," Irgang said. "They are our staff times 10. We couldn't do this without them and they are really effective."
The 2012 United Way Campaign will be continuing through January. For more information, call 483-1561 or visit uwayscc.org. The United Way of Southern Chautauqua County is also on Facebook and Twitter. The United Way partners with 19 agencies in the area to provide service, and helps more than 31,000 people each year.
"Everyone can give something. You should consider what it is in your life that you are really grateful for that someone else might not have," Irgang said. "Reach in and give what you can to make that possible for that other person."