VALDOSTA -- Despite a questionable start, the United Way of Lowndes County's 2004 Campaign ended with a slight bang.

Kevin Conrad, campaign director, said the organization collected $1,064,364, about 76 percent of its goal of $1.4 million.

"We are elated with the final results," he said.

In mid-December, with 19 days left in the 2004 campaign, the United Way had only reached 40 percent of its goal. And no matter what volunteers did, the funds barely trickled in.

"Four weeks ago, it was looking very bleak," Conrad said. "We were only at a little more than $600,000."

Concern that some of the 22 agencies dependent on the United Way would have to close or reduce services grew, he added.

"We dug in," Conrad continued. "We got a burst of energy and got to work collecting money. We got the word out. And in the end, we were really successful. We live in a great town. The people really rallied behind us. We got so much support during the past four weeks, we collected over $400,000."

Conrad said the 2004 campaign generated about $46,918 less than the 2003 campaign, which brought in close to $1.1 million.

"If you were to take the difference in what we collected last year and compare it to what we have this year, it would come out to be about $2,100 less per agency," he added. "That's a real round number, but it tells a good story. The campaign turned out much better than we ever thought it would have a month ago. A few weeks ago, we were looking at substantial agency reductions. I cannot express to you how excited I am. I am just as happy as can be."

To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.

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