From Poverty to Possibility

All too often, people wait until they are experiencing financial difficulty to see the assistance of a qualified credit counselor. Susan was happy that she made the decision to get expert advice on managing her household before trouble started. Financial Coaching provides tools and guidance to ensure that families meet their financial goals.

The Case for Ongoing Funding

As we wrap up this year’s United Way campaign and begin planning for the next, I’d like to add my heartfelt thanks to those traditional and new donors who helped us surpass this year’s ambitious campaign target. As I reviewed the original listing of 53 United Ways in Canada who were aiming to raise over $1 Million dollars in 2012, I was struck by the reality that here in Chatham-Kent – in the midst of a very tough economy – our United Way was targeting the second highest percentage increase – 7.19% – in the nation. Yesterday – with a campaign achievement of $2,045,843 – we, in fact, celebrated a nine percent increase!

So, now what do we do with the funds raised in this year’s United Way campaign?

This month, 16 local volunteers participated in a Saturday morning training session hosted by United Way. This session was held to provide orientation to the United Way’s annual Citizen Review Process and to highlight the importance of ongoing, stable funding for our “family” of agencies. In addition, over 100 registered Canadian charitable organizations and qualified donees will also receive designated dollars through United Way’s Donor Choice Program. Within the month, the United Way Board of Directors will know the amount available for distribution to the United Way Community Fund and approve recommendations by the Community Investment Committee which oversees the Citizen Review Process.

As we enter this traditional process, I am reminded of the importance of core funding to those in the voluntary sector who must rely on ongoing funding to sustain their operations. A stable, ongoing base of financial support is critical to these organizations who cannot survive on special project funding or one-time grants. Core funding is what distinguishes United Way from many other local funders of social services. Annual allocations are provided to ensure that agency staff and/or volunteers are able to continue their valuable work, eliminating the need to “shop” for alternative sources of financial aid.

In order to be eligible for funding from the United Way Community Fund, organizations must be registered Canadian charitable organizations with the capacity to achieve proposed results and be located within the community of Chatham-Kent. They must be willing to provide periodic progress reports and evaluation results and adhere to United Way’s Funding Agreement which outlines the role of each partner to the agreement. Volunteers participating in the Community Investment Process utilize a checklist which is used to evaluate the recipient agency’s performance against a series of 21 criteria. These criteria include a demonstration of community need, program and service effectiveness, efficient resource utilization, community support, management, need for United Way support, compliance with United Way obligations – as outlined in the Member Agency Agreement – and accessibility.

With a current annual United Way allocation of $127,000 – representing approximately 8% of its total budget – Family Service Kent is just one of the United Way funded agencies which relies on United Way for core funding. “While the majority of funding for our agency comes from provincial and municipal grants and user fees,” says Family Service Kent Director Brad Davis, “we utilize United Way dollars to ensure that our individual, family and credit counseling services are provided to those who cannot cover the full cost. In this tough economy, there are many individuals, couples and families with modest to low incomes who desperately need help to cope with life’s challenges but can’t afford to pay. United Way ensures that we don’t have to turn anyone away.” Over the past year, the agency has seen a steady increase in demand for counseling services and they expect this trend to continue.

The Learning Disabilities Association is another agency where core funding is vital. With a current allocation of $93,323 – representing approximately 76% of their total budget – this agency relies on United Way to fund its Tutoring and Social Skills Programs. Statistics reveal that learning disabilities can affect the way in which a person receives, remembers, organizes, understands and expresses information. Living with LD can have an ongoing impact on friendships, school, work, self-esteem and daily life. It is a life-long disability, ranging from moderate to severe and it cannot be cured. Ten percent of the population is affected by learning disabilities and only 3% of school-age children with LD receive special services within their schools. Many students with LD – which can coexist with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – remain unidentified. After years of struggling and failing to perform in school, at home and in the community, feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem often arise. Being labeled “lazy” or “stupid” time after time, some people with ADHD may act out these feelings, become aggressive, get into fights or impulsively strike out. Others may internalize their feelings, becoming depressed and withdrawn. Still others may channel their feelings into their bodies, developing headaches or other physical symptoms. Some believe that they are less worthy, and come to expect failure. “Core funding from United Way ensures that individuals with LD and/or or ADHD receive specialized interventions in home, school, community and workplace settings appropriate for their individual strengths and needs, “says Dawn Babkirk of the Learning Disabilities Association, “where – through the dedicated efforts of hundreds of community volunteers – we break the cycle of failure, and inspire confidence and self-esteem.”

Without core funding, local social service organizations are challenged to continue vital programs. Without core funding, these organizations must compete against others for ongoing funding and sometimes are forced to take precious time and talent away from the provision of service to organize special events which are often time-consuming and do not generate the amounts needed for sustainability. And this is particularly challenging in times of fiscal restraint.

Internally at United Way, we know this only too well by the increase in requests for financial support for vulnerable women and children through the United Way Women’s Leadership Council (more on this exciting initiative in a future article!) and increases in requests for the Operation Cover-Up and BackPacks for Kids Program.

Please stay tuned for future articles on the programs and services funded by your local United Way – and the lives changed through your gifts!

United Way’s youth leadership co-ordinator plays key role

As a follow-up to last week’s column featuring “Mavis and Margaret”, I’d like to focus on the importance of spending quality time with our young people and ensuring that they are meaningfully engaged in community life.

In the summer of 2011, United Way – together with Adult Language and Learning, Community Futures Development Corporation and the Rotary Club of Chatham – was successful in its bid to receive federal government funding through the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration to hire a Youth Leadership Co-ordinator. This role was designed to strengthen the capacity of the voluntary sector through the engagement of youth aged 18 to 35. As the composition of local boards, committees and service clubs ages, it is important to ensure that younger members of society are recruited and properly trained to assume the roles previously held by those who have given their time and talent over several decades and are ready to move on to other pleasures of life.

Caress Lee Carpenter was our first Youth Leadership Co-ordinator. When Caress accepted a full-time position with United Way, Gabriela Deryck was appointed to replace Caress. She has now been in the position for a little less than two months.

Gabi is not a newcomer to United Way. As a student at the University of Western Ontario in the Media, Information and Technoculture Program, she served a six-month academic internship with United Way of Chatham-Kent in early 2012. During this time, she assisted the staff team with plans for the community’s first “Welcome Home Chatham-Kent” Event – a chance to showcase the numerous assets that Chatham-Kent has to offer to you and young professionals. “As a young person looking for employment and community involvement, I was thrilled to help in an event that highlighted the local volunteer and business opportunities,” says Gabi. The event was also an opportunity to celebrate the outstanding contributions of some of our young professionals who have decided to return to Chatham-Kent to raise their families or begin their careers – and some who have decided to stay and make Chatham-Kent their permanent home.

 

A newcomer to Canada in 2004, Gabi was born in Brazil and is fluent in both English and Portuguese. As a graduate of the Young Leaders of Tomorrow Program offered by the United Way of London & Middlesex, Gabi learned, first-hand, about the importance of providing youth with guidance to become effective leaders. “I am passionate about helping others and the mentorship and training I received have been instrumental in helping me put passion into action.”

Her social awareness and interest in social justice led her to pursue a degree in the Media and the Public Interest (MPI) Program at UWO where she was introduced to new ways of understanding and representing social movements, enhanced her research and writing skills and where she developed a keen interest – and expertise – in social media.

“I think the community engagement opportunities I encountered along the way truly helped me get where I wanted to be. I am excited to pass this knowledge to others. I want to inspire and engage youth in the same way someone inspired me,” says Gabi. As Gabi fulfills her two-year contract with United Way, she will be working with the local Youth Engagement Partnership (YEP) Group. The YEP Group is a partnership between local citizens and organizations committed to youth engagement. Together, they inspire, encourage, and support young people to engage in Chatham-Kent community life. The objectives of the group include, but are not limited to, providing opportunities for skill building and leadership development, providing mentorship opportunities for young adults, building community capacity by strengthening the voluntary sector through youth engagement, gathering information, resources and experiences to create a framework for continued engagement, co-ordinating and supporting the implementation of local youth engagement initiatives, providing opportunities for youth to voice their issues and concerns to become the agents of change in their community and developing recommendations for revisions to existing policies and the creation of new policies that address the needs of local youth.

For those interested in supporting our local youth in community engagement initiatives, please contact Gabi Deryck at gabriela@uwock.ca or call the United Way Office at 519-354-0430.