Big Sisters and Big Brothers supported by United Way

In my quest to secure personal testimonials of lives changed by the member agencies of United Way, I’d like to thank Nan Stuckey and Margaret Butler for sharing this heart-warming story of love and compassion. Here are some excerpts from Margaret’s story …

“I believe who we are as a person can be defined by a single experience or exchange in our lives. For me, these defining moments in time came with my experience as a “Little” in my Big Sister Match. The youth of today need more direction and more attention as they learn the value of their own worth. There is no better way for this to happen than being involved in the mentoring experience of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chatham-Kent.

The most powerful impact on my life was my Big Sister. Without my Big Sister as a mentor I don’t know that I would have become the woman I am today. Most children grow up in homes that not only provide for their basic needs but for their inner individual needs, too. In my home I was the eldest child of a woman that suffered from clinical depression. Being a victim of sexual assault at a young age and growing up with a parent who struggled to provide even the basic needs because of her mental illness, I was lost, confused, and often times very alone. In school I struggled and had no friends. At home I was responsible for much of the household duties including caring for a younger sibling and a parent who had her own struggles.

After being referred to the agency, I was matched with a very pleasant, yet busy woman. We were matched for about a year and a half when she ended the match because of scheduling difficulties with her employer. I was crushed and took it very personally. I thought maybe I was just unlovable. The agency did not give up on me and convinced me to give it another go. After a very short time I was matched with the most incredible woman I have ever met. I am so glad I gave in and agreed to try again.


Mavis took a nervous, shy and very untrusting girl and stuck by me as a mentor. The original obligation of a “Big” was clearly defined, but what to do with a troubled “Little” like me wasn’t. Mavis stuck it through. She took me on day trips of shopping and nature related activities. She took me out to eat, on her boat, to where she worked, introduced me to her family and taught me to care for animals properly. The list goes on and on. It really was about what she taught me while she shared her time with me.

Mavis taught me things like patience and tolerance and to look for, and consider, all of people’s possible motivations for their actions. She did this so that I could learn to trust again. She even helped me understand various religions and science theories so I could decide what I believed as a person. She taught me I had worth as a person, that I could accomplish things, and shape my own destiny. She helped me with my homework … and with my broken heart.

When I made mistakes she helped me learn from them rather than repeat them. She was full of second and third chances and never judged me. But, most importantly, she taught me that, not only was I lovable, I was loved, accepted and wanted as a person. She gave me something to look forward to each week and was never afraid to help me through a struggle. As I grew as an individual, she waited patiently as I worked through my shyness or embarrassment or awkwardness.

Mavis exposed me to things outside of my darkened world and offered me a positive outlet. I would not have finished school, have gotten most of the jobs, or have become the great mother I am today without her influence and constant guidance during our match. Mavis encourages me, prays with and for me and is still today, my most trusted confidante and someone I admire. Mavis is my personal hero and the reason I have so much faith in mentoring programs. There is no such thing as a bad kid or a lost cause – only kids who really need someone to hold their hand, love them, and most importantly, teach them how to love themselves.

You don’t have to give hours, you don’t have to be a credited psychologist – nor are most “Littles” as difficult as I was. But the kids that are like I was cannot be turned into productive, upstanding citizens without this world’s Mavis’s. I only wish there were more of them to go around.

I believe in mentoring. I believe we could do today’s youth more justice. My name is Margaret, and the most influential and beneficial experience in my life was the time I shared with my mentor and Big Sister, Mavis.”

Chatham-Kent Big Brothers Big Sisters currently receives an allocation of $99,217 from United Way to offer recruitment and support for adult volunteers who mentor local boys and girls and develop healthy relationships through role modeling. They supported 113 “matches” throughout Chatham-Kent in 2011.

Change starts here! Thanks to those who have made a contribution to this year’s United Way Campaign to ensure that these valuable programs continue!

Member agencies benefit from your donations

As we begin the new year, I want to take some time to celebrate the year-round contributions of United Way’s member agencies. And I also want to say “thanks” to those who dedicate their time and talent to these vitally important social service agencies. This week I will focus on two of our funded agencies – Chatham-Kent Block Parent Program Inc. and Chatham-Kent Family Y.M.C.A.

Chatham-Kent Block Parent Program Inc. is one of the members of the United Way family of agencies whose programs are supported through donations to the annual campaign. This agency helps build a safer community by providing immediate assistance to individuals in distress, through a safety network of 166 residential/rural homes and 11 businesses throughout Chatham-Kent which have been screened by local police services. Contributions are used to offer ongoing personal safety awareness and injury prevention education to our communities’ most vulnerable citizens – our children and seniors. And it’s much more than just a sign in the window!

Kim Lang has been an active Block Parent in Wallaceburg since April of 2004. Kim owns a home which is assisted by Community Living of Wallaceburg. There are several caregivers who assist Kim with the various components of daily living. Kim is a vibrant, energetic and community-oriented woman who loves volunteering for Block Parents – not only as a “safe stranger” in her community – but also at many parades over the years. Kim also attended the organization’s 2012 Annual General Meeting and helped meet and greet delegates at the 2011 Provincial Block Parent Conference which was held in Wallaceburg. Kim and the Block Parent Program have a co-operative, mutually beneficial relationship that is highly valued by each of them.

Chatham-Kent Block Parent Program Inc. relies very heavily on United Way support as alternative sources of funding are quite limited. This agency is currently receiving an annual allocation of $31,453 from United Way. The organization served 2,117 individuals throughout Chatham-Kent during 2011.

The Chatham-Kent Family YMCA was one of six charter members when United Way was established in 1948. When you give to United Way, you are supporting direct and immediate support to individuals and families in Chatham-Kent who otherwise would be unable to afford to participate. Everyone should have the opportunity to join in on YMCA programs and services regardless of their ability to pay. Jenny (not her real name) is a single mom with two small children. She states, “It is a struggle financially to get my kids enrolled in activities. The YMCA has provided us with a subsidy so that my children can participate in programs/swimming lessons and teach them independence.” In addition to that, Jenny admits, “I need some ‘me’ time and if it wasn’t for the Y, I simply wouldn’t have that.”

The Chatham-Kent Family YMCA currently receives $21,612 from United Way to assist with subsidized memberships.

Every Little Bit Counts

Even small change can make a big difference!

As the 2012 year draws to a close, I am reminded of the reality that all gifts – no matter what the size – are gratefully received – especially when they are given from the heart.

United Way was witness to such an act of kindness when Heather Beecroft, Ridgetown Co-Chair and Caress Lee Carpenter were doing their “blitz” of retail establishments in downtown Ridgetown recently.

As they were walking down Main Street carrying their “Change starts here” sign, they greeted Kara Hawthorne and her two-year old daughter, Morgan.

Morgan asked, “Mommy, what does that sign say?” Kara explained that the young women were raising money so that United Way could help a number of people – including children – in the Ridgetown area. With that simple explanation, Morgan exclaimed, “We’ve got change!” and asked her mother if they could donate the left-over change they had received from their lunch.

“It was one of those rare – and heartfelt – moments,” said Caress, “that made the rest of our day!”

United Way officials received a number of larger gifts in the days leading up to Christmas from employee campaigns held at Martinrea Fabco in Dresden and Greenfield Ethanol and Dana Canada in Chatham. A number of additional employee campaigns are still to report in prior to the campaign touchdown on Friday, 2013 JAN 25. United Way remains hopeful that the total of these gifts – coupled with donations from new contributors – will help the organization reach its target of $2,012,000.

With the hope that many of our friends and colleagues have had a safe and restful holiday, it is time to begin thinking of New Year’s resolutions. While it will be important for those who have eaten too much Christmas turkey and sweets to think about fitness memberships and nutrition counselling (I have a number of friends in this business!), I’d like to encourage more of our community’s residents to consider volunteering. Specifically, United Way has a need in the area of fund-distribution. We are now recruiting local residents to participate in the annual citizen review process. Training will be held on Jan. 12. Those interested in helping to determine how United Way funds are allocated to its various agency programs and services are urged to call Helen Heath at 519-354-0430 or email

Freezin for a Reason!

Help raise funds for United Way’s agencies, programs & services by registering online today.   Using the online system, you will be able to ask friends, family, co-workers, etc to help you to help us. To get started click the poster to register yourself as an individual or a team and start your fundraising right away!  You must also download a waiver form that is to be signed and presented on the morning of the plunge.  For further information about the plunge contact 519-628-5456.

Freezin for a Reason Participant Waiver – 2012