United Way Niagara sets $5.25M goal
Niagara residents can no longer turn a blind eye to the escalating level of poverty in the region.
“That’s the message we’re trying to get out there,” said Caroline Sherk. “We have issues and we can’t ignore them. They’re not going away. We must focus on them whether they’re ugly or whatnot, we have to get in there and do it.”
Sherk, United Way Niagara’s 2019 campaign chair, announced the agency’s $5.25-million campaign goal during its kickoff breakfast at Club Roma Tuesday.
She told about 480 people in attendance the campaign will focus on six “#unignorable issues” — poverty, homelessness, hunger, domestic violence, mental illness and social isolation.
“Those are issues we can’t ignore,” said Sherk, a marketing and business development manager for Verge Insurance Group. “The issues are not going away on their own. We need to be there on the frontlines and going right at it. And United Way is right at the centre of that.”
United Way executive director Frances Hallworth said the idea behind the #unignorable slogan for this year’s campaign was “best illustrated” in a story published in The Standard Saturday, about the im
pact downtown homeless services are having on neighbouring residents.
“If I had to pin unignorable to something, that’s it. It truly has become unignorable” Hallworth said. “It’s not saying, ‘I don’t want them in my backyard,’ but we need to do something,” she said. “It’s not ignorable anymore.”
Sherk said she was inspired to head up the campaign after visiting various agencies that receive United Way funding. She saw work being done in Niagara’s communities to help meet needs of marginalized residents — such as the 25 per cent of Niagara’s children who live in poverty, the one in four women who experience domestic violence, as well as services that help prevent the number of suicides in the region which now claim a life every eight days.
“There are far too many more examples of the great needs facing our communities, but I’ve been inspired by the work the agencies do to support our most vulnerable people. These programs are vital.”
Sherk said she was also inspired by many of her predecessors, like Niagara-on-the-Lake pharmacist Sean Simpson, who helped raise just more than $5.2 million in 2018, and John Bullivant, a longtime friend of Sherk’s family who led the 1968 campaign.
Bullivant said his team raised about $350,000 from the city’s 90,000 residents in 1968 — five years after the agency opened its doors in St. Catharines.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 50 years,” he said.
While there was poverty in the city at the time, he said the problem was nowhere near as prevalent as it is today.
The bulk of the money that was raised by the organization was used to help local children, through programs that included subsidizing child care for working moms.
While hoping for the same success as many of her predecessors, Sherk said this year’s campaign has hit the ground running.
She said Gales Gas Bars Ltd. pitched in $50,000 in matching donations through United Way’s Leadership Challenge, while Ferguson Neudorf Glass is sponsoring $25,000 in matching contributions for new donors. Beatties contributed $25,000 to sponsor the first-ever Corporate Donor Challenge.
United Way Niagara’s 2019 campaign chair Caroline Sherk speaks with John Bullivant, who led the campaign in 1968, after announcing this year’s $5.25-million goal.