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Local United Way aims to raise $700,000

WEST PLATTSBURGH - And, they're off.

The United Way of Clinton and Essex Counties Inc. officially marked the beginning of their 2009-10 fundraising efforts with their annual fundraising campaign kick-off breakfast at American Legion Post 1619 Sept. 10. The event included the announcement this year's campaign team will again seek to raise $700,000 to benefit the 33 partner agencies of the local United Way.

John C. Bernardi, the nonprofit organization's executive director, announced "pacesetters" - businesses and individuals who begin early fundraising efforts - have so far raised $151,426.62, bringing the campaign to 21.6 percent of its overall goal.

Bernardi credited the success of the campaign's start to the "good cross-section" of those in the community who continue to lend a hand to the United Way.

"We're well-represented and it's just a tremendous asset, I think, to be so strongly supported by such a wide range of groups and individuals," said Bernardi. "We're truly blessed in this region in many ways. Mainly because people get involved and they're compassionate and they're caring towards their friends and their neighbors. It really shows."

Though Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, which has facilities in Rouses Point and Chazy, has traditionally made a contribution toward the local United Way campaign, this year's donation was in question, said Bernardi. With the sale of the Wyeth corporation to pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. announced earlier this year and transition of the Rouses Point facility to Akrimax Pharmaceutical currently under way, there was concern whether or not Wyeth would be able to continue to give, Bernardi said.

"I've been a little worried about it," admitted Bernardi. "And, it went from bleak to promising to bleak to promising to delightful, thankfully."

In the days leading up to the campaign kick-off breakfast, Bernardi learned Wyeth would indeed make a corporate donation of $32,521, and the employees of both the Rouses Point and Chazy facilities will again conduct employee fundraising campaigns.

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