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United Way donations help local people, not pad pockets,

Bernardi further noted only 12 percent of donations specifically designated for the local United Way goes toward administrative and management expenses, which he said is "quite low." One-hundred percent of donations to specific partner agencies, however, go directly to those agencies, he said.

"In our case, every penny goes to the organization," Bernardi said.

When compared to the United Way of Central Carolinas, the service area of the local United Way as well as the population served is a fraction of the size, said Bernardi. That's even given the recent expansion of United Way of Clinton and Essex Counties into Franklin County, he added.

"It's increased the size of our service area significantly, both geographically and by population," said Bernardi. "It's significant, but we're lucky in some respects because we do have a great network of volunteers.

"Expanding into Franklin County is clearly going to be a big challenge," Bernardi added. "We do think it's going to be, in the long run, great for the region."

Though the organization is now in the process of "building relationships and beginning to form a positive presence in Franklin County," the main focus of the current fundraising campaign of United Way of Clinton and Essex Counties will be on raising $700,000 for its existing 33 partner agencies, said Bernardi. The campaign is approaching the half-way mark, which is important, he added, because "the needs are so great" in the region.

"We're getting there," said Bernardi. "We'd like to be a little further ahead, but we remain optimistic that we're going to be able to make the goal."

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