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United Way Tops Goal; First Time Since ’89

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Orange County’s United Way ended its annual campaign Wednesday by exceeding its goal for the first time since 1989, collecting $19.3 million in pledges.

“We view this as a turnaround year after a couple of difficult years,” said Jeff Rocke, a United Way spokesman. “We’re optimistic this will carry over into next year.”

The campaign’s total exceeded its goal of $18.5 million.

The local chapter of the United Way is affiliated with 109 government agencies and more than 1,000 charitable organizations, including the Salvation Army, the American Cancer Society, Goodwill Industries and various senior citizen and children’s centers.

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In 1991 and 1992, donations to the Orange County chapter dropped by 6% and 9% respectively. Overall, contributions dropped a total of $2.1 million from 1990 to 1993.

“We feel very fortunate in this environment to have our fund-raising campaign headed upward,” Rocke said. “The economy and skepticism about charities had influenced giving in Orange County and the nation. . . . Now it seems that attitudes are turning around and that there is an upswing in consumer confidence and a better feeling about the fate of the economy. All of those things feed into charitable giving.”

In 1992, the group was stung by allegations of improper spending by the United Way’s national president, William Aramony, who was earning $390,000 a year. The controversy put the charity and other nonprofit groups under close scrutiny. The Orange County branch of the United Way distanced itself from Aramony, and local officials expressed frustration at the effect on donations.

This year’s drive came as a welcome surprise to the local United Way, which raised nearly $1 million more than last year.

At the Disneyland Hotel Wednesday morning, about 700 people gathered to celebrate the successful campaign and honor those who contributed the most.

At Johnson & Higgins, an insurance brokerage firm with 60 offices in Orange County, employees gave an average of $405 each to United Way, making them the employees who gave the largest percentage of their salaries to the charity.

“We’re very proud of it,” said Mason Williams, the company’s executive vice president. “We as a firm believe very strongly that you need to give to the community you’re in. We consider ourselves leaders in the community and we want to set the pace.”

The firm raised about $30,000 for the United Way campaign, he said.

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Rocke said the United Way’s major contributors are “traditional” supporters--large companies that have a history of working with the charity group. They include Pacific Mutual, Southern California Edison and Bank of America.

“When you take the increase in traditional support and couple it with increased participation from new donors, that’s where the 5% growth can be traced,” said Rocke.

Among the supporters recognized were Southern California Gas Company; Pfizer Inc.; Norton Reese Marketing and Graphic Design; and Huntington Beach Community Clinic. Twenty-four individual volunteers also were cited.

1993 Goal Exceeded United Way raised more money than it anticiipated in 1993. A look at its goals since 1988 compared to actual amounts donated, in millions: 1993 Goal: $18.5 Amount donated: $19.3 Source: United Way of Orange County

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