Alas, for the first time in at least a decade, we will not be able to write an editorial commending the people of this region for digging deep into their pockets to enable the annual United Way campaign to exceed its goal

But, given the state of the economy in this community and throughout the country, the fact that area employers and their employees contributed more than $725,000 to the annual campaign in Boyd, Greenup, Carter, Lawrence and Elliott counties is an impressive tribute to the continuing generosity of the people of this region. At a time when they have every reason to cut back in their personal giving, they continue to show their support for the 80 non-profit agencies in the five counties that receive funds from the United Way.

In fact, although overall donations fell by 6 percent over a year ago and, barring an unexpected last-minute surge in giving, this year’s campaign is going to fall short of its ambitious $750,000 goal, we consider the amount raised during this year’s tough economic times to be in many ways more impressive than when larger sums were given during the years when the local economy was booming.

“As we all know, our economy is hopefully on the mend,” said Traci Rothenstine of Ashland Credit Union, the chairperson of the 2009 campaign. “We had a rough second half of 2008 and 2009 did not recover like many of us hoped it would. However, many folks still keep other people in their priorities and believe United Way can help most people in the most ways.”

During Thursday’s United Way volunteer banquet, Rothenstine thanked individual businesses with employees who were particularly generous during this year’s campaign. King’s Daughters Medical Center and nearly 4,000 of its employees accounted for more than a fourth of the total giving during the campaign, followed by Marathon Oil.

Rothenstine also thanked AK Steel employees and the AK Foundation, Community Trust Bank, Kentucky Farmers Bank, the Boyd County School District, DuPont Corp. in Wurtland and UPS for their giving to the 2009 campaign.

The demands for the services of many of the agencies that receive United Way funds — CAReS, the Community Kitchen, Helping Hands, the Salvation Army, etc. — increase when the economy flounders. Many United Way agencies have been overwhelmed with requests from people in need, some of whom have found themselves having difficulty making ends meet for the first times in their lives.

The increased demands make it even more important for the agencies to receive the funding necessary to meet as many needs as possible. Because, as Rothenstine said, many continued to make the needs of other people a priority, they again have helped prove that this is indeed a giving community — even in the tough times.

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