January 07, 2002 11:00 pm

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

The ripple effect of Sept. 11 is being felt in Union County, as donations to local charities appear to be less than in the past.

United Way of Union County has collected $82,236 in pledges and donations for 2002, more than $29,000 short of its goal of $112,000.

The bottom line is: Well make a last-ditch effort to reach people who havent donated, then see where we are in February, where well have to cut, United Way President Ted Kramer said. Cutting allocations is a last resort. If we have to, we could do it by percentage or review each program and see where the needs are greatest.

Some pledges are less than half of last years, said United Way Executive Director Dawn Roe. The state employee campaign went down from $8,324 for 2001 to $3,400 for the upcoming year, she said. On the other hand, the Union Pacific Railroad employees pledged $13,000, the same as last year.

Roe said she remains hopeful because all of the agencies United Way supports provide services locally.

Looking ahead, its difficult to judge where well end up, she said. I dont know how the employee campaigns will turn out, but Im optimistic well make our goal.

Some of the larger organizations, such as the schools, Union County and the City of La Grande, have not yet reported their pledges, Roe said.

Funds are still coming in from the 2001 campaign, she said, as many companies use a monthly withholding plan for employee donations. As of Monday, the 2001 campaign had collected $97,804 from pledges of $106,613, but the December income has not yet been calculated. Roe said the actual amount raised through last years campaign will be known in early February.

Its never too late to pledge or contribute to the campaign, she said. We take money throughout the year. Thats why I say Im optimistic well make up our goal.

The agencies definitely need the money.

The 12 United Way agencies are Shelter From the Storm, Union County Court Appointed Special Advocates, the American Red Cross, Silver Sage Girl Scout Council Inc., Elgin Food Bank, Union County Search and Rescue, Kids Club after-school day care center, Blue Mountain Council of the Boy Scouts of America, The Salvation Army, Mount Emily Safe Center, Neighbor to Neighbor, and the Health Network for Rural Schools.

Donations can be sent to United Way of Union County, P.O. Box 862, La Grande 97850. All donations are tax-deductible.