The United Way of Union County board of trustees voted at its January meeting to disburse more money -- $725,370 -- than ever before.

The United Way of Union County board of trustees voted at its January meeting to disburse more money -- $725,370 -- than ever before.

"We have enjoyed a steady rise in funds over the past 20 years," said campaign and public relations director Dave Bezusko. "If you look back to the early 1990s, we were generating just over $300,000 annually. Now we're closing in on $1 million a year."

Bezusko said three factors have contributed to the steady rise: "The growth of the county, an increased awareness of our organization and the generosity of the community. All those things have added up to our success."

Earlier in the month, the United Way announced it had achieved 98 percent of its 2012-2013 fundraising goal, for a total of $928,000.

The $725,370 figure is an increase of 6.6 percent over last year's number.

In all, 43 programs run by 30 local agencies will receive United Way funds, including six area food pantries, four senior centers, two shelters, an after-school youth center, a homeless prevention program. Funds also support rent and utility assistance, disaster relief, prescription medication, hospice care, cancer support, youth activities and more.

"The agencies always ask for more than they're going to get," Bezusko said. "So there's never enough money to fully fund all the requests. The Community Investment Committee has a huge task in front of it every year trying to decide how the money is allocated. It's a five-month process and they really do their homework."

Dave Gleeson of Memorial Hospital was the committee chairman in 2012.

"While the United Way would love to give the agencies funding for new or expanded programming, our primary focus is to try and keep the current programming adequately financed," Gleeson said. "Although we realize the merits of new programming, it is always a difficult process to have to deny funding due to a lack of available dollars."

Two new programs do highlight the distribution, including $17,500 to support 211, a information and referral hotline about available community services. Another $500 will be used to support an Alzheimer's Support Group conducted by the Pleasant Valley Seniors in Plain City.

Ten programs will receive more funding in 2013 than they did in 2012; 12 will receive less; 16 will receive the same; and 13 will receive what they requested.

Said Bezusko: "The committee has to look at every request and ask, Is that a pie in the sky request? Are they asking for more than they think they can get? Or is the program expanding in scope, reaching more people? Has the source of funding changed?

"There are a lot of questions to be asked."

And not all agencies are created equal.

"It is difficult to make comparisons between agencies that have different agendas and goals," said Kathy Klug, a Marysville resident and committee volunteer. "On top of that, when one agency seems to manage their program on the same amount of money each year (as far as the request to us shows) and another agency continually asks for additional funds to accomplish what they plan to do, how do we interpret those requests and fairly distribute our funds?

"I hope we succeed in showing each agency that we value what they accomplish."