The 2014 United Way fundraising campaign kicked off on Aug. 16 with a campaign goal to raise $560,000 for its 25 partner agencies, which is $10,000 more than last year's goal.

Susan Escareno, United Way executive director, is looking forward to her first campaign leading the organization.

"I think it will go fine. With an additional four agencies and the campaign goal being a little higher, makes me a little nervous, but I think we'll do fine," she said.

The four new agencies or organizations this year include Real Men, Real Leaders; Circles of Hope; Seeds of Hope; and St. Catherine Hospital Lactation Program.

Real Men, Real Leaders is a group of community men who mentor and provide positive role models for fifth- and sixth-grade boys, Escareno said. According to the group's Facebook page, its mission is to help guide youth to fulfill potential of becoming "caring, giving, productive and responsible citizens."

Circles of Hope is a program that focuses on teaching people living in poverty the skills needed to get out of poverty.

"I taught the very first Circles of Hope class, and it was very rewarding. I think I learned more from the families I worked with than they probably learned from me," Escareno said.

Seeds of Hope is a jail ministry program that helps incarcerated and recently released individuals get back on their feet and become contributing members of the community.

St. Catherine Hospital Lactation Program is the hospital's breast feeding program.

Each March, agencies go through a grant application process through the United Way. Escareno said there is no set limit to how many agencies are accepted each year. The United Way looks to fund programs appropriately depending on how much money is available.

"It's a pretty intense grant application, but it really holds the agencies accountable," she said.

The United Way looks for organizations that are active in helping people in three areas: education, income and health.

"Some will fit under one of those. Some will fit under all three. They have to focus on at least one of those, and pretty strongly if it's just one," Escareno said.

Escareno said the United Way campaign thermometer has not been put up yet. She said on Friday that she just received the decals for the thermometer and expects it will go up sometime this weekend or early next week in front of the old Bank of America building, which is becoming a Commerce Bank location.

"We're looking for donations. If anybody would like to donate, we would really appreciate that," she said.

The 25 partner agencies for the 2014 campaign include:

Miles of Smiles; Real Men, Real Leaders; Russell Child Development Center; Santa Fe Trail Council Boy Scouts of America; Seeds of Hope Jail Ministry; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association; Building Blocks Project through Russell Child Development Center; Spirit of the Plains CASA, Inc.; St. Catherine Hospital Lactation Program; United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries; The Salvation Army; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Garden City Recreation Commission Playground Program; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney & Kearny Counties; Catholic Social Service; Circles of Hope; Community Day Care Center, Inc.; Family Crisis Services, Inc.; Finney County Retired Senior Volunteer Program; Garden City Area Chapter of the American Red Cross; Garden City Family YMCA; Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland; Habitat for Humanity; Kansas Children's Service League; Meals on Wheels.