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A chance to help United Way workplace campaign is opportunity to ease others' pain

Many worthy causes routinely find generous support in this giving community, but none is more important to the day-to-day existence of thousands of Western New Yorkers than the annual United Way drive. It's under way once again, meaning everyone who can afford it has the opportunity and the responsibility to contribute.

The Buffalo News recently ran a three-part series on poverty in the city. It put faces and pain to new census figures that show nearly one in three adults in Buffalo is poor. The problem hits children even harder: More than 40 percent -- nearly half of Buffalo's children -- live in poverty.

Research by the United Way shows that while poverty may be concentrated in Buffalo, the whole county is troubled by its grip. Almost 13 percent of the county population lives in poverty, the agency found, as do nearly 25 percent of children under 5.

These are staggering figures and it will take years, maybe generations, to change them. What can be done immediately is to take steps -- to keep taking steps -- to be sure that people in our community have food, clothing, shelter, security, education and opportunity. That's what the United Way does. It's why it's so important, here especially.

Imagine what would happen here without the United Way. Last year alone, there would have been 17 million fewer dollars spent to ease the plight of Erie County's poor. Perhaps some of that slack would have been taken up by church and other agencies, but certainly not all of it. Maybe taxes would have gone up to provide some of the services delivered by the United Way. Or maybe there would just have been greater suffering, a greater sense of despair and a heightened risk of the fallout that brings.

Fortunately, we have the United Way to help soften the blunt force of poverty, but the United Way is only as helpful as its donors are generous. That's where all of us come in. Give what you can. The money will be put to good use.

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