The United Way of Union County extended the agency's fundraising campaign through December in an effort to meet -- or at least get closer to -- its $1-million goal.

The United Way of Union County extended the agency's fundraising campaign through December in an effort to meet -- or at least get closer to -- its $1-million goal.

The campaign began the day after Labor Day and was supposed to end by Thanksgiving, but the board decided it must keep going to try to reach the previously set goal.

Dave Bezusko, campaign and public relations director for the United Way of Union County, said the $1-million goal was a first for the organization, but fundraising has fallen short.

Last year's goal was $950,000; the campaign brought in more than $924,000.

So far this year, the United Way has raised $766,206 and is currently projecting the final campaign total will be about $950,000.

"It would be more than last year -- an all-time record, in fact -- but short of the $1-million goal," Bezusko said.

The United Way board of directors has decided that the next step is to reach out to past donors who have not yet given to the 2013 compaign.

Major contributors this year, he said, are Honda of America Manufacturing and its associates, who raised more than $223,000; ScottsMiracle-Gro, which has so far contributed more than $110,000; Nationwide Insurance, with contributions of a little more than $84,000; and the Nestle Product Technology Center, which has raised $65,000.

"With requests over $744,000 coming from our current partner agencies and knowing there are additional needs we may want to fund through our special grant fund, we simply cannot turn our back now on a goal that has not been met," said Dave Gleeson, United Way board member and chairman of the community investment committee.

Bezukso said the need may be growing because more people are using the social service network in Union County than ever before.

"The population of our community has grown by 20 percent in the last decade," he said.

He said a lack of affordable housing, particularly the high average cost of rental units in the community, means that many people are spending too much for the roof over their heads, leaving less money in their monthly budgets for other necessities.

"If you pay more than 35 percent of your monthly budget on your housing, you are likely going to have to rely on government or nonprofit assistance to help meet other needs," Bezukso said. "Our studies show that 16 percent of the Union County population falls into this category."

Tony Eufinger, president of the United Way board, said now is the time for Union County to pull together to help close this gap.

"We are asking everyone who believes in helping their neighbors who are struggling with hunger, illness, or providing shelter for their families to contribute what they can," Eufinger said.

The United Way works closely with other social service agencies, nonprofit organizations, community leaders and businesses to find the best ways to meet the needs of Union County residents.

Donations to the United Way are tax-deductible and can be made through the United Way's website at or by sending a check to P.O. Box 145, Marysville, Ohio 43040.