My husband Shawnn and I feel our community involvement is a privilege. We get to do this, while so many people can’t. When we took over a hotel and campground in a small community, one of the first things we did was reach out to the local United Way. We wanted a partner to help us with the community engagement aspect of our business. Eventually, we were asked to chair the local United Way campaign, and for the first time, it raised one million dollars in the community.
Some people are looking at the books and counting the pennies, and they think you should only contribute to charities once you’ve made a profit. Shawn and I have a different perspective: We feel that you should give all along the way, not wait until you earn your millions, then make a big donation. We hope to do that one day, of course, that would be wonderful and grand. But in the meantime, we do what we can. I believe that if everyone gives a little, it adds up to a lot.
My business and professional connection with United Way goes way back. My first job was at a community centre, which relied on United Way as a major funder. Later, when I started working in government in my twenties, I was tapped on the shoulder by my director who suggested I volunteer to run the office giving campaign. They said that it was a great opportunity and would help my career. I did a lot of research to learn the ins and outs of United Way and eventually, I became a leadership donor.
On a personal level, I gain a sense of purpose from partnering with United Way because they support local communities and people of all ages across the social spectrum. They have helped people who are near and dear to me, including friends and family members, including those who had dementia, and who have struggled with mental health challenges, unemployment, learning disabilities and addictions.
With the pandemic, United Way agencies have had to deal with increased pressure on services, but it has also allowed them to educate people about serious issues. People who are struggling with isolation and depression often can’t afford counselling. Going through the list of United Way-funded agencies in my community, so many of them have a mental health component, which often gets overlooked in the health care system. These programs are more critical than ever.
People may think that United Way is this big thing, but it’s very locally focused. It’s an umbrella organization, but all the money remains within the local community. There’s a simple phrase ‘local love’ that really resonates with me because that’s what it’s all about.