VALDOSTA -- With a goal of $1.4 million and 19 days left for the 2004 campaign, United Way of Lowndes County officials are becoming increasingly concerned.

"We are only at 40 percent of our goal for this year," said Kevin Conrad, campaign director. "This has been a really difficult year for us."

This same time last year, the 2003 campaign, which generated $1.1 million, was at 60 percent of its $1.35 million goal.

Hoping to turn things around are RTG Media's Scott James, a radio personality with Rock 108, and Shari Crim, a devoted friend of Winnersville. For the seventh consecutive year, the duo has gone to great heights for their annual Roof Sit, which benefits the United Way of Lowndes County. They have been on top of The Home Depot on Norman Drive since 6 a.m. Friday morning and will remain there until 6 p.m. tonight, a 36-hour stretch.

"Our partnership works well," said James, referring to Crim, who traveled all the way from Mississippi just for the event.

In previous years, he described the Roof Sit as a second wind for the campaign, an opportunity to raise awareness. Last year, James and Crim raised about $5,500. This year, they hope for the same, but dream of doubling it, and are on the lookout for a corporate match.

"We need the support of the community now more than ever," Conrad said. "We are struggling, and we have 26 agencies who need our help. The $1.4 million goal is the exact total requested by these agencies last year. This is the minimum amount needed to keep their programs fully functioning."

One of the local agencies praying for a turnaround in the 2004 campaign is Southside Recreation Center.

"We could not operate our programs without the United Way of Lowndes County," said Rachel Bradley, executive director. "They provide nearly all of our funding."

The center serves approximately 50 kids a day, 100 in the summer, from the surrounding neighborhoods through a number of programs -- after-school tutorials, sports and recreation, supervision for students suspended from school, and so on.

"These children are the ones at a high-risk for delinquency," Bradley said. "We keep them off the street and work to make them productive and successful adults. We provide positive relationships and role models. At Southside Recreation Center, these kids have a place to go 365 days a year."

The Valdosta-Lowndes County Family YMCA is concerned about the future of the Challenger League, a free service to those with disabilities. Without financial support from the United Way of Lowndes County, Cheryl Marshall, program coordinator, said more than 100 disabled children and adults in the area will have no access to group sports like basketball and bowling.

"Our motto states that everybody plays and everybody wins," she said. "We can't do it without a successful campaign."

Angela Rothrock, director of Lowndes Associated Ministries to People's New Horizons, fears not being able to adequately feed the area's homeless population and provide food and utility assistance to the working poor. Before becoming a United Way agency, she was forced to feed 30-plus women and children living in the shelter on a mere $200 a month.

Other agencies that depend for the United Way of Lowndes County's annual campaign for survival include Camp Relitso, Children's Advocacy Center, Community Soup Kitchen, The Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Valdosta Community Day Care Center, and Moody Relocation Assistance and Youth Center.

James and Crim encourage everyone to stop by The Home Depot today and drop a donation in the bucket. Roof Sit T-shirts are available for a $10 donation. Those who cannot get to The Home Depot today can mail their check or money order to The United Way of Lowndes County, P. O. Box 925, Valdosta, Ga. 31603.



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



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