September 02, 2001 11:00 pm

By The Observer

The signs of autumn are everywhere: Children preparing to return to school, warm days and cooler evenings, earlier sunsets and later sunrises and the kickoff for the annual United Way of Union County campaign.

This year, the fund-raising campaign will begin Thursday during the Celebrate La Grande event from 4 to 9 p.m. at Max Square and along Fourth Street.

Every dollar raised in Union County stays in Union County, said Dawn Roe, executive director.

The goal of the 2002 campaign is $112,000, $2,000 higher than for 2001. The charitable organization has raised nearly $103,000 of the 2001 goal and pledges continue to be received, said United Way President Ted Kramer.

Of the $112,000 projected, $18,000 has been earmarked for administrative costs, slightly less than 16.5 percent of the total. Roe is the only paid staff member.

Leigh Creighton is campaign director this year. The campaign is targeted to run through Thanksgiving.

The charities and their budgeted amounts for 2002 are:

Salvation Army, $17,600. The Union County organization donates food, clothing and other necessities to those in need, including transients.

Shelter From the Storm, $13,000. The Shelter offers support and advocacy to victims of domestic violence and their children. The La Grande organization owns and manages a safe house, providing emergency shelter, and operates a 24-hour hotline.

Boy Scouts of America, Blue Mountain Council, $13,000. According to United Way, the scouting program involves more than 1,000 youngsters in Union County.

Neighbor-to-Neighbor Ministries, $12,000. The all-volunteer organization works cooperatively with other agencies to provide food and emergency help to people in need.

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), $8,000. Volunteers, who advocate on behalf of children who have been abused or neglected, work within the court system and are sometimes considered the eyes and ears of the judges.

American Red Cross, $8,000. The local chapter provides disaster services, assistance to military families, and various health and safety courses. The organization has announced that it will close its Baker City and La Grande offices by the end of September if it cant raise $30,000 to meet a budget deficit.

If the chapter should close, the United Way board would meet to determine how the money pledged to Red Cross in 2002 would be re-allocated, Kramer said.

Silver Sage Girl Scout Council Inc., $7,300.

Kids Club, $5,500. A Community Connection organization, the Kids Club provides day care after school during the school year and full time during the summer.

Mount Emily Safe Center, $4,000. A safe place where child victims of abuse are interviewed by social workers and police.

Health Network for Rural Schools, $2,000. The network places a nurse and a nurse-practitioner in the five public rural elementary schools of Union County.

Union County Search and Rescue, $2,000. Volunteers, on call 24 hours a day, are equipped to search for people who have been reported missing in all types of terrain.

Elgin Food Bank, $1,500. The food bank, staffed by volunteers, provides people who are in emergency situations with food boxes.

In addition to the usual requests from Union County firms and their employees, United Way will have a golf tournament Sept. 21 at Buffalo Peak Golf Course in Union. A hot dog feed has been set for Oct. 13-14 in front of Shopn Kart.

Donations can be sent to United Way of Union County at P.O. Box 862, La Grande 97850.

Additional information is available on United Ways web site: www.eoni.com/uwuc