United Way announced new campaign goals at their annual Harvest Lunch, Wednesday afternoon. At past Harvest Lunches, the annual goal has been a number. The organization is now focusing on “changing the odds for people in the community”, rather than looking at the goal as a dollar sum.
Participants at the Harvest Lunch were greeted by an arena filled with volunteers, freshly prepared lunches, and United Way members. Over 1,500 lunch tickets were pre-purchased, with that number doubling in walk-ins.
United Way works with communities to provide agencies and resources as a response to the needs of people. Some of the services that they fund include mentorship programs such as Big Brother Big Sister, The Boys and Girls Club,
housing projects like London Cares, and resource centres.
Executive Director of South London Resource Centre, Nancy Needham, says that United Way is about giving these people a voice, “We want them to be apart of solution, and the new future. We want them to look at their future in a different way than they’ve ever had the opportunity, and that is by empowering them.”
Neighborhood Resource Centers change and progress families and individuals from being terrified and concerned to being empowered. “A community where everyone matters” is their vision that works through empowering those in need by providing the necessary assistance or tools.
CEO of United Way Elgin-Middlesex, Kelly Zieger, says this year is all about providing access to the programs and services that really make a difference to people. “Let’s provide 16,000 counselling sessions so that people don’t show up in the emergency room, when really, what they need is early intervention for their families when they’re in mental health crisis. Let’s provide 8,000 spots in after school programs so kids can access tutoring and the skills to break the cycle of poverty later in life, and let’s talk about numbers like comprehensive funding for neighbor resources, so when families are having a tough time, they can go somewhere right in their neighborhood to access help.”
London has the third highest rate of child poverty in the country
Statistic Canada recently released a census report that revealed London as the third highest rate of child poverty in the country, with median income for families lower than other parts of the country. Zieger says this is because numerous manufacturing plants have closed-down in the past few years, taking thousands of people out of employment. The jobs
that many people are finding now are paying significantly lower income rates, or only available as precarious work.
“It’s very hard to plan for your future when you have to plan for, ‘am I going to make enough for rent this month? Am I going to be able to groceries on the table this week?’” Zieger says there are many short and long-term solution strategies, but that it is important to understand the needs of today and to address those first. The campaign changes will ensure there are more programs and services that provide children and families with the tools to be successful.
Not reaching campaign goals, always a concern
The problem with setting high but necessary goals is the chance of not reaching them. “The problem is, not reaching our goal isn’t just about a notch on a thermometer. Each one of those notches is someone’s life. When we don’t reach our goal, it means kids don’t go to camp, it means families don’t get counselling, it means people don’t get access to food when they need it.”
This year, all Neighborhood Resource Centers will receive approximately $500,000 from United Way. United Way reaches out to as many people as possible to be generous so that increased impact in the community can be a reality.