After two years of decreasing the money it gives to nonprofit agencies, the United Way of the Plains will try to reverse the trend and give more.
The charity announced Thursday that it is increasing its goal for giving by $100,000 this year, for a total of $15.1 million.
The goal was $15 million last year, and just more than that was raised.
"We're still obviously in a tough economy, but we've got to turn the corner and start giving more to the agencies," Pat Hanrahan, president of United Way of the Plains, said.
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United Way money goes to more than 80 programs at 37 nonprofit agencies in Sedgwick and Butler counties. Last year, more than 87,000 people were helped by United Way, the organization said.
Hanrahan said the agencies also had been receiving less from government and from private foundations.
"They're people who need help and we've just got to rally around them."
The United Way kicked off its fundraising campaign for 2011 on Thursday at separate events for employees and students. Hanrahan said that 70 percent of United Way contributions come from employees.
Most Wichita public schools also are involved in the campaign, as are other private and public schools in the two counties, said Delane Butler of the United Way. The campaign will run through Nov. 17.
"It's time for us to be thankful we have a job... to stand up and be counted," former Buffalo Bills linebacker Shane Nelson said in a keynote speech to about 800 people at the employee campaign kick-off breakfast at Century II. Nelson later spoke to about 200 students and teachers during lunch at the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame at the Wichita Boathouse.
In the face of layoffs, "those that are in better shape need to do more," Hanrahan said in his remarks to the breakfast crowd.
Among the help United Way volunteers are giving, Hanrahan said: counseling couples whose marriages are in trouble, feeding the hungry, keeping kids out of trouble, and comforting rape victims and people mourning the death of a loved one.
The theme for this year's campaign is "Let's Face It." Among the ways United Way is using the phrase: "Let's face it. One in 10 people is out of work" in the metropolitan area, and "Let's face it. One in four girls is abused."
Linda Brantner, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Kansas and campaign chair, said she overheard a woman recently say she had cancer and was taking care of her husband, who had Alzheimer's, all without any family nearby to help. Brantner said she was able to tell the woman to call the United Way's 2-1-1 help line to inquire about getting some respite time.
Many businesses hold fun activities for their employees to raise money for the United Way. Brantner drew laughter from the audience when she said the United Way campaign is "one of the most competitive... and well-fed weeks of the year" at her company.