PLATTSBURGH The North Country has once again stepped up to the plate to help raise money for the United Way of Clinton and Essex Counties. The not-for-profit organization hosted its annual fundraising campaign kick-off breakfast at American Legion Post 20 Sept. 10, officially announcing its $700,000 goal for the 2008-09 campaign year. The event included the announcement of this year's "Pacesetters" businesses and individuals who have begun early fundraising efforts to get the campaign off to a running start. Local United Way executive director John C. Bernardi commended the work of this year's Pacesetters who have helped "capture the essence of the United Way" and the organization's new marketing slogan "Give. Advocate. Volunteer. Live United." "We're really blessed in the North Country, I believe, with a health and human services network that is really strong, really committed," said Bernardi. "I've been working in the industry for better than 20 years in the North Country and I dare say that people throughout our region who have needs, don't go without. There's always some avenue for them to get some sort of assistance or some sort of support." "That's a real tribute to the great network that we have and the great support that all of you provide," Bernardi added. While $700,000 is an admittedly lofty goal, said Bernardi, that same amount was raised last year and even in trying economic times, he feels that goal can be accomplished once again. "We're very confident and enthusiastic that we will meet that goal and probably exceed that goal," said Bernardi. "And, because of the economic challenges facing everyone, the needs out there are greater than ever." Denton Publications owner and publisher Daniel E. Alexander, who serves as chairman for the 2008-09 fundraising campaign team, agreed. Last year's campaign reached more than 90,000 people in Clinton and Essex counties, he said. "That's a tremendous number and it all was possible because of the work and the effort that you put forth," said Alexander. "So, this year, you're going to need to twist those arms maybe a little harder, ask a little stronger, frame the case so that people recognize and understand how important the United Way campaign is and how many people are truly touched in our communities." Wyeth Pharmaceuticals is one of the several businesses which Alexander and Bernardi credited for understanding the importance of contributing to the United Way. The business, based locally in Chazy and Rouses Point, was commended for once again serving as a Pacesetter for the annual campaign. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals managing director David F. Champagne III presented a donation on behalf of Wyeth employees totaling $102,793. "Our employees, recognizing the need in this community, have come forth again to do their most in support of that need," said Champagne, who was joined by Wyeth training associates Diane Letourneau and Beth Ducatte and Perry Kurtz, senior director of drug safety operations at the Chazy facility. Bernardi thanked Champagne and the Wyeth Pharmaceuticals family for their sizable contribution and extended his thanks to all the other Pacesetters and contributors to the campaign, underlining their importance as well. "Everybody looks forward to the announcement every year from Wyeth and we're so grateful and so appreciative for their generosity," he said. "Every single contribution makes a huge difference and is equally as important as the other. Thank you all for your generosity to the people of the North Country." Other Pacesetter contributions include Abbott, Frenyea, Russell & Coffey, $1,918; Alan B. & Jennifer Booth, $3,500; Champlain National Bank, $8,010; Child Care Coordinating Council of the North Country, $2,335; Eye Care for the Adirondacks, $10,001.10; FirstView Eye Care, $1,200; Griffith Energy Co., $849; Landrock E & S Consulting, $1,000; Mountain Lake PBS, $475; NBT Bank, $3,924; Niles, Piller & Bracy, Attorneys at Law, $750; Northern Insuring Agency, $9,000; UPS - Ground, $13,456; and UPS - SCS, $8,333.37. Partial contributions to date include Agency Insurance, $1,722; Chazy/Westport Communications & Westelcom, $4,064; Denton Publications, $9,785; ETS, $1,000; Georgia Pacific, $10,000; Nine Platt Hospitality Group, $6,707; Plattsburgh City School District, $11,126; The Development Corp., $550; and The Northeast Group, $2,500. Contributions from individuals and other miscellaneous organizations total $31,281.86, added Bernardi, bringing the campaign to $246,280.33 35 percent of its overall goal. Those wishing to donate may make donations directly at the local United Way chapter, located at 45 Tom Miller Road, or through a payroll deduction, which may be arranged through one's employer. For more information about how to contribute to the 2008-09 United Way fundraising campaign, call 563-0028 or visit www.unitedwayce.org.