Red Feather Week is here!


The 61st Annual Red Feather Week commences Monday, 2016 SEPT 19. This week long event is a chance for high school students across the municipality to showcase their school spirit, compete in healthy competitions and give back to the community.

Youth Committee Advisor, Erica Kitchen says “The Youth Committee Ambassadors have worked very hard to not only plan the week’s events but also their own individual school activities to help raise money for youth related programs in Chatham-Kent. This week would not be possible without their determination as well as the dedication of the teachers, principals, school boards, and volunteers.”

Events kickoff at 2:00 p.m. Monday with the annual Red Feather Softball tournament at Thames Campus. The schedule for the week is as follows: 

MONDAY SEP 19–2:00 p.m.
$2 Admission

TUESDAY SEP 20– 4:00 p.m.
$5 Admission

WEDNESDAY SEP 21– 1:00 p.m.
$2 Admission

WEDNESDAY SEP 21– 4:00 p.m.
$2 Admission


FRIDAY SEP 23 – 7:00 p.m.
$8 Admission


SATURDAY SEP 24 –7:00 p.m.
RED FEATHER DANCE– CHATHAM BANQUET HALL (Not school board sanctioned)
United Way of Chatham-Kent Event
$10.00 Admission

Admission will be paid at each event and tickets for the Dance are available online or United Way Offices.

The United Way Youth Committee wishes to thank our generous sponsors Gold – EnviroShake, Silver -Solomon Roofing, and Bronze –CogecoTV.

To keep up-to-date follow us on Twitter @UWCKYouth using #RedFeather16.

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


United Way had start in faith community

The winter of 1887 was particularly cold and hard in Denver, Colorado. The silver mines had closed and people wandered the streets hungry and homeless.

A group of visionaries – a woman and five clergymen from the four largest parishes – believed there must be a better way to meet the needs of local people. As they sought help from local merchants and businesses, they discovered very quickly they were in competition with each other as they made their calls.

So they decided to join forces and form the Charity Organization Society (COS). This group set about collecting funds for local charities, coordinating relief services, counselling and referring clients to cooperating agencies and making emergency assistance grants.

In those humble beginnings, the first United Way was born.

United Way has had a presence in Canada since 1917. The organization – then referred to as a “community collective ” – began during the First World War period in Montreal and Toronto. In 1939 the National Office was created as a division of the Canadian Welfare Council and Charlotte Whitton was named as executive director. She was an influential feminist and one of the first female mayors and companion of the Order of Canada.

Locally, our United Way was established in Chatham in 1948 with the help of dedicated volunteers from the Chamber of Commerce and local Labour Council. The first campaign was chaired by Sydney Amherst Morse, the third president and general manager of Union Gas Ltd. and raised a total of $50,023 for six charities.

Today, the local United Way provides funding to 34 health and social service programs within 19 local charities.

Over the past six decades, the organization has gone by various names – Community Chest (yes … just like the Monopoly Game!), Torch Drive, United Appeal and Red Feather.

In 1972, a new structure was created with a broader approach to include social policy and development and three years later – in 1975, the name was changed to United Way of Canada. A year later, Centraide Canada was added to the national name to acknowledge the members from Quebec.

Today there are 108 locally autonomous United Ways across Canada. Each United Way raises money and allocates funds to support its community. With support provided by volunteers and staff, the local United Way strives to create opportunities for a better life for everyone in the communities throughout Chatham-Kent. By addressing not just the symptoms of problems, the organization works to get at the root causes of social issues and focuses its attention on making long-lasting measureable changes to community conditions.

And, in May 2015, our national organization voted to join United Way Worldwide – making our local United Way one of 1,800 United Ways across the globe in 40 countries and territories.

United Way has many decades of community support to celebrate! Please join us at this year’s United Way Campaign Kick-Off – Friday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. at The Kent 1874. Tickets are available now.

If there is a particular question that you would like answered in a future article, please do not hesitate to send me an email at or call me at 519-354-0430.

United Way and Labour – Working Together

Brian Armitage, United Way’s Director of Labour Programs and Services with me and Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress

Brian Armitage, United Way’s Director of Labour Programs and Services with me and Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress

It only seems fitting, given that Monday is Labour Day, that we take this opportunity to celebrate the long-standing relationship between United Way of Canada/Centraide Canada and the Canadian Labour Congress – a relationship solidified with the signing of the “Statement of Principles” agreement in March of 1988.

As the agreement states … “Both the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and United Way Centraide Canada (UWC-CC) are membership organizations existing to serve and represent their members.  The CLC is dedicated to the proposition that Canadian workers are entitled to secure and protect their mutual welfare and that of their families by all legitimate means.  The mandate of UWCC is to assist its locally autonomous members and the United Way Centraide movement as a whole to promote the organized capacity of people to care for one another.”

Our two organizations share a common vision of building a society which provides a wide range of social and public services which are accessible, universal and of the highest quality.  In order to achieve these mutually held objectives, the two organizations have agreed that

  • social and public services be fully staffed by properly trained and qualified government employees, supported by appropriate complementary services and programs offered and run by the voluntary sector on a nonprofit basis
  • the two organizations strive to attain the highest quality and effective delivery of public social services possible and that these services should not be put in jeopardy by the displacement of paid employees
  • the voluntary sector be supported through personal participation on boards and committees and through financial contributions to the annual United Way campaign
  • working people have the right to decent pay and working conditions, and
  • where United Ways raise over $1 Million annually a staff member be dedicated to enhancing the relationship with organized labour and educating members of organized labour about the various health and social services available for their family, friends and neighbours

This past June, we hosted a special luncheon where Hassan Yussuff, President of the CLC spoke about the numerous changes that had transpired over the past two decades – not the least of which included a significant downturn in the economy, a reduction in major manufacturing jobs and earlier than anticipated retirements on the part of labour members well versed in the need for support of United Way.

It goes without saying that these changes have impacted our organizations’ ability to address the needs of some of our community’s most vulnerable citizens.  But all is not lost!

On Monday, members of United Way and the Chatham-Kent Labour Council will celebrate their partnership with a FREE Family BBQ, entertainment and activities for kids.  The event will be held at the UAW Hall – 88 Elm Road South in Wallaceburg.

If there is a particular question that you would like answered in a future article, please do not hesitate to send me an email at or call me at 519-354-0430.

Operation Cover-Up launches with special event

Coats for CoffeeUnited Way of Chatham-Kent and The Salvation Army are set to launch the 2016 Operation Cover-Up program with the event “Coats for Coffee” on Tuesday, September 13, 2016 as part of the initiatives taking place to celebrate Positivity Day.

People across Chatham-Kent can drive-thru “The 425” circular parking lot and drop off their clean, gently used winter coats between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. In exchange, the first 200 people will get a free hot cup of coffee.

“Although most people may not be thinking about winter yet, we start the collection period early in the fall to ensure when the temperatures drop people have access to weather appropriate clothing. We are urging people, if they have some spare time this long weekend, to go through their closets,” says Mary Symons, Operation Cover-Up Coordinator.

“Coats for Coffee” is supported by the Prosperity Roundtable and the United Way of Chatham-Kent’s Women’s Leadership Council.

Although the event is a single day, the coat collection period of Operation Cover-Up will continue to Wednesday, November 30, 2016. The community can take coats to their local Salvation Army Thrift Stores in Blenheim, Chatham, Ridgetown, and Wallaceburg. In Dresden coats can be dropped off at McBrayne Feed and Supply Ltd., in Thamesville at Vivian Cleaners, and in Tilbury at the Information and HELP Centre.

This year the distribution period will run from Tuesday, October 11, 2016 to Saturday, November 19, 2016 at The Salvation Army locations in Blenheim, Chatham, Ridgetown, and Wallaceburg as well as the Tilbury Information and HELP Centre.

For more information about Operation Cover-Up or “Coats for Coffee”, please contact Mary Symons at 519-354-0430 or

Exploring what makes our fund-raising organization tick

Wes, Steve, PatriciaWes, Steve, PatriciaSeveral weeks ago, I was invited by Peter Epp of the Chatham Daily News to tell the United Way story. It was a timely request, given the fact that I had recently interviewed with another local newspaper reporter about the lack of growth of the United Way campaigns over the past decade. And while there were a number of points that I would have liked to include in that particular article, there was insufficient space to elaborate.

About the same time, I also received some supportive advice from a major donor about United Way’s need to “make a better connection between the donor and the service recipient.”

With one in three residents – that’s 38,000 people throughout Chatham-Kent – impacted either by United Way partner agencies, programs and services – or by United Way’s direct services, you would think that would be an easy task. Not so much. Why? It’s because the majority of people touched by United Way are not comfortable sharing – openly – their personal challenges of living in poverty, or coping with addictions, family violence, physical and/or mental disabilities.

“Walking through the doors of a funded agency of United Way isn’t an easy thing to do,” says Steve Pratt, one of the 2016 Campaign co-Chairs. “Anyone who has ever had to ask for help with a ‘sensitive’ issue knows exactly what I’m talking about. There’s pressure to fit in – to be ‘normal’ – so you don’t necessarily want others to know what you or your family members are going through. Patricia and I are working hard with our team this year to ensure that the services are there for folks – like us – who need them.”

When you think of single-focus organizations like Hospice, or Habitat for Humanity or the Cancer Society or Community Living – some of our community’s well respected charities – we understand what they do. But when it comes to United Way – with its 21 partner programs and 13 direct services – like a smorgasbord of 34 different dishes – the image is not as clear. While the United Way brand is easily recognizable, the work we do is not – and often puzzling if you are not already an active volunteer on the United Way board of directors or one of its working committees.

So … over the next few months and weeks, I have been given this opportunity to provide answers to the 5Ws and 2Hs: Who, What, Where, When, Why, How and How Much? I’ll be writing about why donors give to United Way, showcasing personal stories of lives changed, featuring some of the folks involved with our organization, focusing on the costs associated with running our local charity and highlighting the work United Way staff and volunteers are doing to make a long-lasting and measurable change in society.

If there is a particular question that you would like answered in a future article, please do not hesitate to send me an email.

Karen Kirkwood-Whyte
CEO, United Way of Chatham-Kent