BF Work­place’s team ef­fort sup­ports United Way

Winnipeg Free Press - - COMMUNITY VOICES - BILL REDEKOP bill.redekop@freep­ress.mb.ca

EN­NIS Ri­ley has dealt with the United Way in var­i­ous parts of North Amer­ica, in­clud­ing Toronto and Cal­i­for­nia. But nowhere, he says, has he seen a United Way as well­sup­ported and run as ef­fec­tively as in Winnipeg.

“The de­gree of gen­eros­ity that Win­nipeg­gers have is re­mark­able, far more than other United Ways I’ve seen in other parts of the world,” said Ri­ley, pres­i­dent of BF Work­place.

“Other ones in other parts of the world have been pat­ting them­selves on the back for achiev­ing X per cent or Y dol­lars per pop­u­la­tion, and Winnipeg does way bet­ter.”

United Way is well into its 2018 cam­paign, which runs from Septem­ber to Jan­uary. It raised $20 mil­lion last year, and its goal for 2018 is $21 mil­lion.

More than 600 work­places in the city run in­ter­nal fundrais­ing drives, in­clud­ing BF Work­place, which is an of­fice equip­ment com­pany based in Winnipeg. It boasts 100 per cent staff par­tic­i­pa­tion and has “pace­set­ter” sta­tus, mean­ing it runs its United Way cam­paign dur­ing the sum­mer months be­fore the of­fi­cial cam­paign be­gins.

That gives the larger cam­paign mo­men­tum, with 30 per cent of the cam­paign al­ready achieved by the Septem­ber launch.

When Ri­ley re­turned to Winnipeg in

1996 to helm BF Work­place, he be­came part of the “cab­i­net” of busi­ness lead­ers that urges other busi­nesses to get on board with United Way fundrais­ing.

“I got to know how good Winnipeg’s United Way is. It’s not just about rais­ing money and giv­ing it out. It helps non­profit agen­cies run them­selves bet­ter and gives them ad­vice,” he said.

“If a non-profit agency isn’t run­ning it­self prop­erly, it won’t get the money. But the United Way helps them to pull their socks up.”

For youth alone, United Way sup­ports

33 agen­cies, 11 coun­selling and cri­sis­in­ter­ven­tion pro­grams, 39 out-of-school and sum­mer pro­grams and 23 lead­er­ship and men­tor­ing pro­grams. It af­fects an es­ti­mated 83,000 Winnipeg youth.

An­other unique fea­ture of the lo­cal United Way is that the prov­ince and var­i­ous agen­cies pay 100 per cent of its fundrais­ing and ad­min­is­tra­tive costs.

“So when Win­nipeg­gers give their money to United Way, they know 100 per cent goes di­rectly to the good works of peo­ple like at Ross­brook House, or the El­iz­a­beth Fry So­ci­ety, or the (Cana­dian In­sti­tute for the Blind),” Ri­ley said.

He has a con­nec­tion to the CNIB, be­cause his late mother used its ser­vices when she de­vel­oped mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion and lost her sight. “The CNIB wouldn’t ex­ist with­out the United Way,” he said.

BF Work­place runs a va­ri­ety of events dur­ing its fundrais­ing week, in­clud­ing a 50-50 draw and pizza lunch fundraiser.

One of its events is rac­ing re­mote cars on tracks set up around the of­fice. Each par­tic­i­pant con­trib­utes two or three dol­lars and work­ers race each other. Prizes are given for the best times.

There is also a draw for ev­ery­one who do­nates to the United Way: the win­ner gets a day off with pay.

Sheri Pallen, the BF project man­ager who has run the United Way cam­paign drive at the com­pany for al­most two decades, won this year’s draw. It wasn’t fixed, she said jok­ingly. “I didn’t draw the num­ber.”

The events are about rais­ing money, “but also get­ting to know each other and hav­ing fun to­gether,” Ri­ley said.

BF has been in busi­ness for 57 years, sell­ing nu­mer­ous lines of of­fice fur­ni­ture. Vol­un­teer cam­paign chair­woman Barb Gamey, the CEO of Pay­works, said com­pa­nies such as BF “show that even small work­places can run strong cam­paigns and have suc­cess­ful re­sults. You don’t need to be a huge cor­po­ra­tion with tonnes of staff.”

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RUTH BON­NEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

BF Work­place project co-or­di­na­tor Sheri Pallen (from left), CEO Den­nis Ri­ley and pres­i­dent Jeanette Hiebert. The com­pany is a big booster of the United Way.

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