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The annual fund-raising campaign of the Area Wide United Way is in full swing. More than 15 percent of this year's $625,000 goal already has been raised, ahead of last year's pace even though this year's target is well above the 1997 effort.

Businesses, industries and organizations are finding creative ways to encourage giving by employees, many of whom use the payroll checkoff method of regular giving to United Way. There are contests, special events and prizes to spur the best and biggest contributing efforts.

Many regular and generous donors to United Way, however, give for more personal reasons. They have seen how United Way agencies help individuals throughout the community. Maybe they have been helped themselves, or maybe a relative or friend has been given a brighter or more meaningful life because of United Way assistance.

In this community, like most with strong United Way organizations, there are signs everywhere of how United Way helps organizations that benefit people.

As a recent news article pointed out, of the 25 agencies funded by the Area Wide United Way, several are aimed specifically at programs for children.

The Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts are well-known for their positive programs that help mold youngsters into caring and productive adults. Likewise, the full list of United Way agencies that involve young people is impressive: Cape Girardeau Civic Center, Cape County 4-H Council, Cape Public School Children's fund, Court Appointed Special Advocates, Easter Seal Society and the Jackson R-2 Children's Fund.

Of course, there are United Way agencies that are geared to adults too. These programs have proven how beneficial they are to the community at large. But there is something about helping children that holds a special place in the hearts of area residents who want to help by making a United Way donation.

If you haven't already filled out a pledge card at work or sent a check to United Way for this year's fund drive, please take a moment to do it now. If payroll deduction is available, you will find this is an easy way to contribute to United Way by stretching out your pledge over 12 months.

Soon the holiday season will be upon us. The joy of giving will a part of that busy time of the year. Make sure you have done everything you can for United Way before the holiday rush gets here. Let the satisfaction of making a donation to United Way be an early holiday present to yourself.

Twenty-five United Way agencies join in saying thank you for all you do during this year's campaign.