The United Way of Union County announced Monday that despite difficult economic conditions it has set its 2009 campaign goal at $900,000. That goal represents a 7 percent increase over the 2008 total.

The United Way of Union County announced Monday that despite difficult economic conditions it has set its 2009 campaign goal at $900,000. That goal represents a 7 percent increase over the 2008 total.

"This year, United Way has one of the biggest challenges we've ever faced," said United Way board president Jim Cox. "The current economic climate dictates that the needs of the community have never been as high as they are this year."

United Way officials said Union County's unemployment rate has doubled in the past year to 9.3 percent, its highest level since 1985, and that approximately 10 percent of the Union County population is on the food stamp program. United Way officials estimate it would have to raise $945,000 to meet the full funding requests of its member agencies and its own programming.

"The state of the economy is not an excuse for not getting involved. In fact, it's a call to action," said Dave Bezusko, United Way's campaign and public relations director. "This is a time when our neighbors our counting on us to rise to the challenge. Yes, there are many people hurting in our community. But there are many others who have the capability to help."

United Way of Union County has made its campaign goal three consecutive years, including $840,000 in pledges last fall, a 3 percent increase over the amount raised in 2007.