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The United Way of Niagara fund drive struggled down to the wire, but when the total was announced Friday, the campaign exceeded its goal by raising slightly more than $1 million.

"The generosity of the community was literally overwhelming," said Carol Houwaart-Diez, the organization's president. "The figures showed it was touch and go, but the spirit of the people left nothing to doubt."

As of Wednesday, the 12-week campaign had been 14 percent short of its goal of $975,525, said Philip Buffone, the vice president.

"But once again, the community came through for us at the last minute," he said.

Campaign results were announced at the Community Care Celebration luncheon in Antonio's Banquet and Conference Center.

The money goes to 17 member agencies, which provide 50 programs for needy families.

In recent years, individual donations have saved the annual drive in the last few days, Buffone said.

"In the past, we have cut it close, but in the end the people respond to the United Way message to help the needy," he said.

The Lockport-based Eastern Niagara United Way was $33,000 over its goal of $1.1 million when its fund drive ended Wednesday, said Mark Malonek, president.

The United Way of the Tonawandas is not doing as well. It was 10 percent short of its $430,000 goal when the fund drive officially ended Friday, but the deadline has been extended.

The campaign made up ground since Wednesday, when it was 30 percent shy of its goal.

"We're going to keep on going," George O'Neil, the director, said Friday. "I'm optimistic we can reach our goal. . . . It's been very difficult with all the cuts our agency has taken over the years."

The final cut-off point, he said, will be at the annual meeting in February.


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