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A celebration of community caring was held Thursday evening as the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County announced that it surpassed this year's goal of $18.3 million.

In a "neighborhood block party" setting in the Buffalo Convention Center, some 600 volunteers and United Way supporters gathered to hear the news from Barbara L. Laughlin, general chairwoman of the 1997 campaign.

"This year's campaign raised a record total of $18,334,596," she said. "The final goal amount is a combination of support from loyal contributors and new dollars from first-time supporters."

She urged contributors to honor their pledges and "help change lives in our community."

"I am pleased to hear that once again our community has met the challenge," said Robert M. Bennett, president of United Way. "But the real victory is that we will be able to continue to help many lives, one day at a time, all year long."

He said the new funding will permit United Way to continue to invest in solutions that meet the most pressing needs of our community.

Three innovative programs begun last year that focus on children and families will be given continued support this year, Bennett said.

Community Impact Funds will go to the Family Violence Enhancement Plan of the East Side of Buffalo, Kenmore/Town of Tonawanda and Springville/Concord.

Continued support will go to Success by Six, a program striving to insure that each child has the opportunity he or she needs, focusing on children from birth through age 6.

Continued funding for Family Support Centers. The number of centers has grown from one in 1963 to five this year. The centers provide human services at the schools, benefiting both children and parents.

During the ceremony, the annual Chair's Award was presented to Donald A. Ogilvie, associate chairman of the Specialized Division, and Jan Borman, Labor Division associate chairwoman, as outstanding members of the cabinet.

The Jacobs Cup was given to David K. Grant, North Region associate chairman, for the highest percentage increase in dollars over goal.

The financial team led by Robert M. Zak was awarded the McFarland Cup for raising the most new money this year.

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