On one side of the tent, Shirley Carson doled out information to county employees about the Association for Retarded Citizens of Anne Arundel County.
Across the way, Barbara Moses was spending her time at Saturday's picnic, held to kick off this year's United Way campaign, stressing how important it is for people to donate their money and time.
Together, the two were trying to convince county workers that their money is needed and that the United Way of Central Maryland is separate from the national United Way of America, rocked by charges of financial misuse earlier this year.
Those charges, combined with a slumping economy, are making it harder for Ms. Carson and Ms. Moses to do their jobs.
"It is tougher this year," said Ms. Moses, taking four months off from her job as a district claims manager for Nationwide Insurance to help the United Way.
The national charity's president, William Aramony, resigned under fire Feb. 27 after allegations that donated money was spent on limousines, flights on the supersonic Concorde, and such personal items as golf equipment, jewelry and flowers.
After the controversy, some local chapters withheld their dues payments, about one penny for every dollar raised.
Saturday organizers hoped to persuade many of the county's 4,500 employees to pledge a part of their paychecks to the campaign. County workers donated more than $143,000 last year.
"It is obviously something that is worthwhile," said County Police Chief Robert Russell, chairman of this year's county drive. "We know that the United Way would be having a tough time because of the bad publicity."
Although some county employees may already be feeling hard times following the past year's rounds of state-initiated budget cuts, he said, people who depend on the United Way and other charities are even more in need. "It is more important to give," he said. "The people who needed help before need even more now."
Chief Russell said county officials will know how effective their campaign is next week, when pledge cards requesting contributions are sent out.
Ms. Carson, executive director of the Association for Retarded Citizens of Anne Arundel County, said about one-sixth of her organization's funding comes from the local United Way. The money helps pay for a new respite program, which provides short-term relief for families caring for homebound developmentally disabled.
Fairs and picnics like the one Saturday are a big help. "It's good just for the visibility alone," Ms. Carson said.
But all the promotions weren't needed for Becky Marcucci of Pasadena, who picked up a balloon at Ms. Carson's booth for her 1-year-old son, Jordan. She said her two close relatives have benefited directly from the United Way.
Ms. Marcucci believes the United Way scandal is not alone in making it tough to collect money for needy causes.
"I think that it's a tough time to be asking for money for anything."