2017 Volunteer Campaign Chair

This afternoon at a media event held at the AwareHouse (old Guspro building on Grand Avenue East in Chatham), the United Way of Chatham-Kent announced that Elizabeth Downey-Sunnen will be serving as the volunteer Campaign Chair and will lead the organization’s annual fundraising effort in 2017.

Elizabeth has been a long-time supporter of the United Way. It started when she was a Youth Ambassador for CKSS roughly 20 years ago.  She is a very positive and highly creative individual who believes strongly in kindness and laughter.  She is currently a visual artist in our municipality (www.downeysunnen.com), although she has also been a teacher (high school English) and is currently hosting students at AwareHouse.  This is a new venture for her, and it is aimed at working on mindfulness and self-awareness through art.  This project is in its infancy and she will be releasing more details in the near future.

She is bilingual, which enabled her to live and work in France after she completed her undergraduate degree from Laurier. Her husband was born in the United States which enabled her to live and work in Colorado before returning seven years ago to Chatham-Kent.

She has two kids (Zadie, 10; Milo, 6) and a couple of dogs (Gemma, almost 1; Roxy, almost 3 months), a couple of turtles (Jelly, 8; and PB, 5).  Only one guinea pig (Ginger, 3) and only one husband, Brian.

The Sunnen family members have been long-time supporters of United Way and Elizabeth is excited for the opportunity to give back to the community that has provided so much for her. She understands the value and impact United Way’s funded programs and services provide – having reached a little over 40,000 Chatham-Kent residents in 2016.

Elizabeth looks forward to working with her 2017 Campaign Cabinet which will be made up of both new faces and some returning members from last year.

Co-operators Insurance is hosting a very special event this year for United Way’s official campaign kick-off. The event is being held at The Kent 1874 on Friday, September 8, 2017 starting at 6 pm. The community is welcomed to join us as we celebrate our community with an evening of entertainment featuring Tom Lockwood and Rock Steady. Tickets are available at the United Way offices in Chatham, Tilbury and Wallaceburg, Musical Strings and Things, Betty Brite Dry Cleaners, and Hip Entertainment. They are also available online: TheKent1874.com or at the Door.

All About YOUth

The All About YOUth event is a way to celebrate International Youth Day that takes place on Friday, August 11, 2016 from 4pm-8pm at the Downtown Chatham Centre.

Brought to you by the Youth Engagement Partnership and United Way of Chatham Kent, this event is targeted to youth aged 11-25 and will be a fun, interactive learning event.

This year’s event is a Carnival Theme with lots of fun games & activities for youth to participate in. One event will include a dunk tank with local Police, Fire and EMS first responders willing to take the plunge for an extremely worthwhile cause – engaging our youth!

Community agencies that offer services for the age demographic listed above will have the opportunity to showcase their agency with a booth. They will have resources available for youth to take.

This is a FREE indoor/outdoor event.

This is second year for the event following a very successful inaugural event in 2016.

If you have any questions about this event or wish to get involved please contact Erica Kitchen at 519-354-0430 or erica@uwock.ca

Operation BackPacks – 16 Years of Support to Ensure Success in School

Although the current school year is winding down, Operation BackPacks is already underway. The program aims to provide local children with new backpacks and grade-appropriate school supplies – the tools they need to achieve academic success – and help alleviate the financial stress parents face each new school year.

Operation BackPacks was started by staff of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance Emergency Department in 2001, after learning about a similar program that was running in another community.  That first year they distributed 26 backpacks.  Since then, the program has steadily grown, adding additional partners along the way – Kiwanis Clubs, United Way, Service Canada, Union Gas, banks and others – to address the increasing need in our community.  Service providers came together in 2004 to ensure that families get the help they need through a more centrally co-ordinated and collective effort.  United Way was asked to take the lead and currently provides administrative support for referrals from agencies, schools and parents, centralization of supply ordering, and volunteer recruitment for assembling and delivering backpacks to schools and communities.

With support from Giant Tiger, Staples, United Way of Chatham-Kent’s Women’s Leadership Council and numerous local organizations and businesses, Operation BackPacks strives to serve every child and family in need throughout Chatham-Kent.

 How can I get a BackPack for my child?

Parents or guardians can request a backpack for their children online by following this link or visiting www.uwock.ca.  Registration forms have been sent to all schools.  Or, parents can call 519-354-0430 to speak with the Project Co-ordinator. Your personal information is kept private and confidential.

How can I help?

You can support this program by donating money, supplies or your time! The easiest way is to sponsor one or multiple backpacks at $25 each. Sponsoring a backpack allows co-ordinators to monitor the quantity of supplies and ensure each child receives the supplies they need based on their grade level. You can also donate your time by volunteering to help pack and distribute backpacks during the last week of August.

For more information about how you can become involved please contact Mary Symons, Good Neighbours Co-ordinator at 519-354-0430 or goodneighbours@uwock.ca.

 

 

 

 

 

 

OPERATION COVER-UP MOVING TO NEW HOME

After 30 years of operating the “Operation Cover-Up” Program, the United Way Board of Directors is proud to announce the passing of the torch to its community partner, The Salvation Army.

Initiated in 1986, the program was developed to ensure that no individual would be without a warm winter coat.  And over this period of time, over 54,000 coats (and hats and mittens, too!) have been distributed to our community’s most vulnerable residents.

“This was one of the first direct service programs administered by the local United Way,” said CEO, Karen Kirkwood-Whyte. “There was a need identified that no one was meeting at the time. We rallied the community behind this cause and created a program to ensure that children, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas would be able to stay warm through the long winter months. As programs tend to evolve over time, Operation Cover-Up is in a position to be fully embraced by our community partner – The Salvation Army – and will be sustainable over the long-run.”

Beginning as a partnership with the Chatham-Kent Police Services and local dry cleaners, the program expanded to include sponsorship and assistance from Chatham-Kent Fire and Emergency Services, St. Andrews United Church, Maycourt Club of Chatham, Rotary International, and the Prosperity Roundtable … and a host of community volunteers who helped to donate, sort and distribute clothing. United Way is most grateful for the generosity demonstrated by those individuals who played a part in this ‘people helping people’ program.

Individuals willing to donate their gently used, clean winter coats will be encouraged to take them directly to The Salvation Army locations in Chatham, Blenheim (at the Blenheim Baptist Church), Ridgetown and Wallaceburg … as well as the Tilbury Information and HELP Centre. These same locations will also serve as the distribution points for these items.

Speaking on behalf of The Salvation Army, Captain Stephanie Watkinson noted, “It is our distinct pleasure to continue delivery of this program which aligns well with our organization’s mandate.  We intend to retain the name of the program- “Operation Cover-Up” and will be issuing details of the 2017 Program in the next few months.  In the meantime, as spring cleaning is upon us, we would encourage individuals to think of this valuable community program when cleaning out their closets.”

For further information, please contact Karen Kirkwood-Whyte at 519-354-0430 and/or Captain Stephanie Watkinson at 519-354-1430.

United Way Chatham Kent raises $1,707,707 to invest in C-K

img 9740_ total announced_ touchdown breakfast_ for online and media releasePhoto: Members of the UWCK Youth Committee who are young leaders representing the 10 high schools in CK.

United Way Chatham-Kent raises $1,707,707 to invest in C-K

United Way Chatham-Kent announced today that their Annual Campaign has wrapped up, raising $1,707,707. The announcement was made this morning by the 2016 Campaign Co-chairs, Patricia Wright and Steve Pratt at the Campaign Touchdown Breakfast hosted by the Links of Kent and sponsored by Advanced Realty Solutions, Ross Insurance Brokers, Inc., and 94.3 CKSY FM.

The majority of funds raised are donated by individuals in the community or employees who give through a workplace campaign. The rest is raised through corporate gifts and special events such as Blenheim’s Art in the Garden, Harvest Run, Red Feather, 99.1 CKXS FM’S Radio Hostage and Starlight Movie Night.

“It was an honour to be a part of the United Way campaign. I am very proud of what our community was able to accomplish, thanks to an amazing team effort”, said Wright. “It was an incredible experience and it really opens your eyes to the hardships people in our community face each and every day. I also realize how lucky we are to have organizations like the United Way making a difference in the lives of the people living right here in Chatham-Kent.”

“Patricia and I have often spoken of how lucky we are to be able to give back to an organization that has helped us overcome some pretty big obstacles in our own lives”, added Pratt. “If I had to sum up the 2016 campaign with one word, it would be ‘gratitude’ – gratitude for the countless volunteers who donated their time to serve on our campaign cabinet, running a workplace campaign or a special event – gratitude for the courageous individuals who came forward and shared their deeply personal stories with strangers, family, friends, co-workers and neighbours to help them understand the real impact donors make on the lives of the recipients of their contributions; and most importantly, gratitude for everyone who chose to invest their hard-earned dollars to support the children, individuals and families who may need to access United Way’s funded programs and services in 2017.”

The money raised by the campaign will start being distributed locally almost immediately. United Way volunteers will carefully review funding applications and make recommendations to the United Way Board of Directors in the coming weeks.