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FARMINGTON — Community leaders gathered Thursday morning for the San Juan United Way Pacesetter breakfast to thank companies and organizations that have already started collecting donations for this year's campaign.

Members of the United Way board of directors, volunteers, and representatives from companies and organizations already raising money met in the Merrion Room at the Presbyterian Medical Services Community Health Center to prepare for the launch of the campaign.

The year's theme — "Be a link in the chain of giving" — was announced by United Way Executive Director Linda Mickey.

Mickey was filling in for this year's campaign chair Pat Risner, president of BHP Billiton's New Mexico coal assets, who was unable to attend but appeared in a video message shown during the event.

In the video, Risner said everyone in the audience is important in supporting the United Way and its services that are needed in the community.

"It is critical to make the place in which we live a better place to raise a family," Risner said.

Mickey said in an interview following the event the organization doesn't have a goal for the money it wants to raise but hopes to improve on last year's amount of more than $3 million.

The San Juan United Way helps fund about 45 programs across a number of partner agencies.

Mickey said partner agencies have recently seen a drop in state and federal funding with volunteers working hard to expand the number of companies that contribute to the United Way.

"We are always actively seeking companies that may have not participated in the past," Mickey said.

During the program, a representative from DNA People's Legal Services spoke about becoming one of the San Juan United Way's new partner agencies.

Cathryn Abeyta, a program coordinator with DNA People's Legal Services' volunteer lawyer program, thanked the crowd for helping its domestic violence support programs.

She said the agency has been able to establish more effective ways to provide referrals to other agencies for domestic violence victims and families seeking support.

"Those agencies are literally a link in the chain of giving because we're able to give many additional victims and their families an opportunity to have freedom, empowerment and justice," Abeyta said.

This year's campaign will officially launch on Sept. 17 with the 25th annual Day of Caring, which is gearing up to be the biggest yet.

Mickey said more than 100 projects have been submitted, with about 70 percent of them already adopted by volunteers.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.

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