United Way sets its goal at $825,000

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - FRONT PAGE - WAYNE LOWRIE

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. wlowrie@post­media.com

RON­ALD ZAJAC/THE RECORDER AND TIMES

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.

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