The Erath County United Way 2007-08 fund-raising drive is off and running.

And according to Jo Nell Richardson, secretary/treasurer for ECUW, this year’s kickoff is the best she has seen in a decade.

“I have been involved with United Way for about ten years now,” Richardson told a crowd Thursday at the campaign kickoff. “And I’ve never seen the campaign start off with so much money. We are beginning with a real bang.”

Ron Mullins, who is co-chair of the fund-raising effort along with Amy Troutman, can be credited for the jumpstart. Mullins started a new program this year called Individual Leadership Giving.

The program gives people who donate a minimum of $500 to the campaign special recognition “for their generosity,” Mullins said.

So far the program has already raised more than $18,000. (For a list of donors, see page 2.)

This year’s campaign goal is $250,000, but Mullins said he is convinced more can be raised.

“Quite frankly that’s not enough,” he said. “It’ll be okay if we reach $250,000, but we will celebrate if we reach $300,000.”

Representatives from several local agencies funded by the United Way attended Thursday’s event, including the Boy Scouts, H.O.P.E., Inc., Habitat for Humanity, Cross Timbers Family Services, Meals on Wheels and the Treehouse After School Program.

“Last year alone the United Way served over 15,000 people in Erath County through these agencies,” Mullins said. “There is a caring spirit in this community and we need to consider the many people who need our help. Remember that every dollar you give counts.”

The United Way will host its annual Fish Fry Thursday, Aug. 16, at Stephenville City Park.

Tickets can be purchased at Stephenville Chamber of Commerce, First Financial Bank, Town & Country Bank, TexasBank, Citibank and First National Bank in Dublin.

Sara Vanden Berge covers courts, law enforcement, and business and political issues for the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at sara.vandenberge@empiretribune.com. Her work number is 968-2379, ext. 240.