United Way sets its goal at $825,000
The United Way of Leeds and Grenville has set a modest fundraising goal of $825,000 for its fall campaign, reflecting the region’s tough economic times over the past several years.
This year’s goal is $100,000 less than last year’s target, but more than the $806,000 that the charity actually raised in 2016, according to the United Way’s executive director Trish Buote.
Buote said this year’s goal is more realistic, based on the economic challenges face by the community.
“We’re going to work really hard to get to $825,000, which is higher than last year and given the changes happening to the community,” she said.
Buote said the campaign intends to work more closely with its workplace donors to ensure they know what United Way does for the community.
“Our team is going to make a more concerted effort to make sure we are connecting and that people know what the United Way does,” she said.
The United Way announced its goal on Thursday at a kickoff breakfast that was filled with tributes and testimonials to what the umbrella charitable organization means to Leeds and Grenville.
Buote set the tone of the gathering when she told of her dying father’s advice that “in order to keep it, you have to give it away.”
That theme of giving back – or what goes around, comes around – was underlined by Brenda Benoit in a testimonial of what the United Way has meant to her.
Benoit worked for more than 20 years at Procter&Gamble and during that time she was one of the main volunteers raising money for the United Way. She also served on the board of the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization and she was a Big Sister for several years.
Benoit said she did it for the pride and satisfaction of helping an organization that does so much for the community, never dreaming that one day she might need the United Way’s services herself.
But in 2006, her son was in a debilitating accident and she found herself as the principal caregiver of her two-year-old grandson.
Ten years later, Benoit said she had to reach out to the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization herself to find a Big Brother for her grandson, now 13. The organization came through, providing her grandson with the “gift” of a Big Brother, who proved to be a godsend for her family, Benoit said.
Things have now come full circle, she said. Her grandson, Jacob, has now pledged to do what he can to volunteer to help Big Brothers Big Sisters or any United Way agencies as his way of giving back.
“You never know when you will have to knock on the door of a member agency. I never thought I’d be standing here,” she said amid applause from the audience of about 100 people.
“Right from the bottom of my heart, I tell you we couldn’t do it without you.”
Mayor David Henderson acknowledged that both the United Way and the city itself have faced a few tough years. But he said his father taught him the values of resilience and perseverance and the agency, like the city, has to “dig in, do better and work harder.”
One of the big challenges facing both the city and the United Way is the impending closing of Procter&Gamble, which has been a huge contributor to the United Way over the years, Henderson said. Now those generous P&G employees are going through hard times themselves, he added.
But despite the fact the company is pulling up stakes, P&G is still raising money for United Way, Henderson said.
Minutes later, P&G employees reinforced the mayor’s words by presenting United Way with a cheque for $100,000, giving the agency a big push toward meeting this year’s goal.
Local MP Gord Brown also referred to the United Way’s “few challenging years” but he said he sensed a new positive momentum in the room filled with the charity ’s supporters. firstname.lastname@example.org
Kelly Cole, centre, the United Way of Leeds and Grenville's campaign director, speaks to Bob Jeffery, left, and Andreas Link, two members of a group of cycliing civil servants who came through town raising money for the United Way on Thursday.