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When the economy is down, the incidents of child abuse that Shauw Chin Capps sees at Hope Haven of the Lowcountry rise -- and so does the need for more money to pay for programs that help victims, she said.
But the money Hope Haven and 38 other human services agencies in Beaufort and Jasper counties will receive from the United Way of the Lowcountry this year will not likely be as much as expected. The United Way ended its 2008 fundraiser Wednesday after reaching 96 percent of its goal, raising more than $2.6 million but falling short of its $2.725 million target.The 2007 campaign met its goal, netting slightly more than $2.7 million in donations.
A group of 60 volunteers interviewed potential recipients throughout 2008. Final decisions on how much money each group will receive will be made this month at the United Way's board of directors meeting.
"It's a challenge, because you have to do more with less," said Capps, executive director of the nonprofit child advocacy and rape crisis center. "We'll definitely be doing that. We'll get creative, maybe stall our growth. But the police depend on us, hospitals depend on us. This is going to help."
Capps was among more than 20 United Way agency representatives,volunteers and staff members who gathered Wednesday morning in front of the organization's thermometer sign on Boundary Street in Beaufort. The group cheered as Clarece Walker, president of United Way of the Lowcountry, tacked the cardboard "Thank You" placard to the top of the sign, signaling the end of this year's campaign.
United Way staff extended the 2008 campaign through January when the flow of donations slowed to a trickle. In years past, the money came in waves, usually meeting goals by November or December.
A souring economy and tighter budgets kept some from contributing this year, said Jack Alderman, chairman of the United Way Board of Directors. To make up for a part of that loss, other donors increased their pledges, and new donors popped up all over the area.
"We would love to have had more, but that's close enough," Alderman said. "Everyone has really stepped up like they never have before and made this work."
Willie Mae Lewis, outreach coordinator for the Literacy Volunteers of the Lowcountry, said the money her organization gets from the United Way goes to Beaufort County adults who can't afford the $35 registration fee to get into the program. Literacy Volunteers helps them improve below-average reading, math, writing and speaking skills.
In the 2007-08 term, 776 students enrolled in the literacy program, 613 of whom graduated.
"I don't know what we would do without the United Way," Lewis said. "The United Way is like a godsend."