A call for com­pas­sion

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

Af­ter decades of ad­dic­tion, Christina Whyte knew she hit rock bot­tom on the night she cooked the skin on her arm.

Stoned, drunk and de­pressed, the Brockville sin­gle mother of three used her lighter and cig­a­rettes to slowly burn her arm over a pe­riod of three hours.

She was so numbed by the drugs, booze and her men­tal state that she felt noth­ing at the time, Whyte told the United Way of Leeds and Grenville’s an­nual cam­paign kick­off event on Thurs­day.

In a dra­matic gesture dur­ing her speech at the break­fast kick­off, Whyte rolled back the sleeve of her jacket to re­veal the scars from the burns.

It was a re­mark­ably can­did speech that re­counted her ad­dic­tion-fu­elled life of bad choices, abu­sive re­la­tion­ships, black­outs, de­pres­sion, wasted days, self-mu­ti­la­tion and sui­cide at­tempts.

The burn­ing in­ci­dent was, she said, a turn­ing point on her long road to re­cov­ery.

Now sober for 28 months, Whyte holds down a job at the United Way, prides her­self in be­ing a good mom to her kids and she is in a good per­sonal space.

But she doubted that she would be alive to­day if not for the help of United Way-sup­ported agen­cies such as La­nark, Leeds and Grenville Ad­dic­tions and Men­tal Health.

Those agen­cies are es­sen­tial for the many peo­ple in Leeds and Grenville like her who are strug­gling with ad­dic­tion and men­tal heath is­sues, she told the cam­paign kick­off. Amid the opi­oid cri­sis sweep­ing the United Coun­ties, the United Way dol­lars are needed as much as ever, she said.

Whyte’s per­sonal tes­ti­mo­nial came as an emo­tional pre­lude to the United Way’s an­nounce­ment of this year’s goal of rais­ing $825,000, the same as last year.

Tr­ish Buote, the United Way ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said the or­ga­ni­za­tion man­aged to reach its tar­get last year be­cause of a lot of hard work, and she was con­fi­dent that it would meet the chal­lenge this year, too.

Tammy Sokolowski, pres­i­dent of the United Way board, said that “2017 was a tough cam­paign but we made it.”

She noted that Brockville has been hit with “job losses and chal­lenges” in re­cent years but that the char­ity is de­ter­mined to find the sil­ver lin­ing.

“I know that to­gether we will find the way,” Sokolowski said.

Mayor David Hen­der­son said the city has seen tough times be­fore, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the 1990s when it lost 5,000 jobs over three years.

But through­out the dif­fi­cul­ties, the United Way al­ways has been there to help those who slip through the cracks, he said.

Hen­der­son called Brockville a “city in tran­si­tion” as it deals with the job losses from the even­tual clos­ing of Proc­ter & Gam­ble but he added that other em­ploy­ers are ex­pand­ing to fill the void.

Augusta Mayor Doug Malanka also men­tioned P&G in a brief ad­dress, say­ing the com­pany’s wind­ing down makes it im­por­tant that oth­ers step up to help the United Way meet its tar­get.

But while Proc­ter & Gam­ble is wind­ing down, it is not out of the giv­ing game. A com­pany man­ager stepped up to the mi­cro­phone to pledge $61,000 to the United Way from P&G em­ploy­ees.

He said the P&G em­ploy­ees have “not lost their fo­cus on the com­mu­nity” de­spite the im­pend­ing clos­ing of the Brockville plant.

Jeff Brown of Gananoque, brother of the late MP Gord Brown, said a com­mit­tee that is rais­ing money for an out­door ice sur­face in that town would team up with the United Way.

For many years, Gord Brown or­ga­nized a char­ity hockey game called Hockey Night in Leeds and Grenville to raise money for the United Way. Jeff Brown said the rink com­mit­tee de­cided to res­ur­rect the game to ben­e­fit the build­ing of the rink, which is now at $250,000 of its $1-mil­lion goal.

Brown said the com­mit­tee has de­cided to pool re­sources with the United Way to spon­sor the game, and the pro­ceeds would be split be­tween the char­i­ties.

Brown said the game is planned for Nov. 28 at the Lou Jef­fries Arena in Gananoque.

WAYNE LOWRIE/THE RECORDER AND TIMES

Christina Whyte shows the scars on her arm to the United Way au­di­ence.

WAYNE LOWRIE/THE RECORDER AND TIMES

The United Way re­veals its cam­paign goal for 2018.

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