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Chair of the Board of Directors speech – Annual General Meeting 2024

May 30, 2024

The following are the remarks made by Jason Hatcher, Chair, Board of Directors, at the meeting.

I am honoured to have undertaken the role of Chair of United Way Centraide Canada Board of Directors one year ago in June 2023.

When I started my United Way journey, I never imagined that I would have this opportunity. While volunteering and public policy have always been a major part my life this was not the plan when I walked into my first committee meeting at the United Way of Calgary and Area. I was simply looking to give back in a different way, and perhaps to help others make an impact.

I remember that first committee meeting vividly. It was a government affairs committee, a subject I know very well having spent years around government and politics. Yet I was one part nervous, very nervous in fact and one part intimidated actually awed may be a better word. Nervous because this was different, I felt it instantly, I was surrounded by people who put ambition or political dogma aside for something bigger. And I was in awe, at the incredible people, staff, volunteers, donors, and agencies all so selflessly committed to making impact in their local community.

It was amazing that we could find each other in this United Way. People who come from labour, from management, from all walks of life, united and working together to tackle our society’s challenges.

I guess what I am saying is that I was and I remain in awe of you, our incredible network of amazing individuals.

So today the one word that describes my feeling gratitude. Gratitude for you. The successes of the United Way Centraide network over the past year are attributable to our collective efforts – United Way Centraide Canada and United Way Centraides – as local impact leaders and a national platform for building strong and resilient communities.

Last year, the rapid rise of inflation, the high cost of housing, climate-related disasters, and the lingering and long-term impacts of the pandemic intensified experiences of vulnerability for many people, families, and communities. Nationwide, we have seen historic increases in food bank use, homelessness, substance use, mental health challenges.

Throughout, the United Way Centraide network has remained a strong, steadfast force for good.  While the society we live in feels very divided, we remain United.

Together, our national network of United Way Centraides mobilized over $600 million to support basic needs through essential community services and rallied collective action to address our most pressing challenges.

There is no better example of our collective action than the successful launch and stewardship of the Community Services Recovery Fund. Over $100 million distributed fast, effectively, efficiently in direct support of over 1,680 program innovation and redesign projects designed to renew and strengthen services from coast to coast to coast.

In 2023, our national board also made a commitment to initiate a renewal of our national office strategic plan.  Building on our shared Future State Vision and commitment to being an Impact Leader, Partner of Choice and Modern Network of United Way Centraides, this plan will be an opportunity for renewal.

We launched this process in early 2024 and for the past few months we’ve been listening and learning from all of our United Way Centraides – through CEO surveys, focus group discussions and one on one conversations.  This process has been essential to reconnect with United Way Centraides and guide the development of renewed priorities for our national office for the years to come.

I am also honoured to report that for the first-time last year, we have taken board meetings out of Ottawa to put them on the road.  This was very important to myself, your national board and to the team at Centraide Canada. To be local on a national scale,  we must see local in action. It has been very inspiring for the board; we have learned so much.  Besides the meetings, we visited our partner agencies, met with the United Way Centraide leaderships and learned from them, and had the opportunity to meet and build relationships with many board leaders.  We will absolutely continue with this approach this year and next.

Our network of United Way Centraides and the role we play nationally and locally has changed a lot over the past several years.  We are stronger, more resilient and impact focused as a network. But we are not done, we will continue to adapt, to share ideas, and to find ways to ensure that we are making positive local impacts.

As we stand at the threshold of the next phase of our transformational growth journey, we are guided by our purpose – United Way Centraides exist locally to serve those experiencing vulnerability in our communities and to create an equitable future for all. This purpose serves as our beacon, influencing every business decision we make. We are the “Unifying Force” that helps local communities achieve their goals.

It gives us guidance as we look forward with hope and aspiration to creating communities where everyone can achieve their full potential.

Canada’s challenges are our collective inspiration. It is why we are here, it is why we persevere. I remain in awe of you. Keep leading, keep being inclusive, keep making local impact. Canada needs more United Way.

In closing, on behalf of the Board of Directors, I want to take a moment to recognize someone whose contributions to United Way Centraide Canada made us advance over the last 6 years.  I want to express my gratitude to our departing Board member, and my friend, Ann Divine.

Ann’s unique style combined with leadership development, change management, coaching and mentoring capabilities were evident throughout her tenure on the board.  In two full terms, or six years, as a board member, her thoughtful reflections, her highly informed questions and the ideas she put forward all made such a difference.

Thank you, Ann.

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