Artist’s Share Lived Experience at Breaking Barriers Reception

 Breaking Barriers Exhibition opening reception Saturday night at Left Wing Art Gallery and Tattoo Parlour was a great showing of community spirit. All in all 27 Artists exhibited 44 artworks. About one hundred people came out for reception night and enjoyed the art, food catered by Williams Street Café and wine from Early Acres in Chatham.

 Co-ordinator of the Prosperity Roundtable Danielle Shaw welcomed and thanked everyone for showing support for the special event. “The idea was to use creativity to bring the community together, foster connections and networks, provide a platform for expression and empowerment, build awareness about community issues  and most of all to be inclusive” said Shaw. Studio Nights were offered in February for Artists to create pieces to submit to the show if they wished to. The Breaking Barriers show is non-juried and all art submissions were displayed in the three locations ARTspace, Left Wing and Williams Street Café. “It takes courage to create art about something you feel strongly about, but then to write a statement about it and take in a step further to show it publicly” noted Shaw. 

 Local Artist’s Laban Smith and T.J Brown spoke to their artworks. “It is when you reach outside of your comfort zone that you find new ways of knowing” explained Laban.  Brown described the meanings behind his Artwork named “Between a Rock” about growing up on the East Side of Chatham. “I noticed a trend, when it came to post-secondary education, it was not pursued as

 most face multiple barriers” said T.J.

 All artist statements and artworks were documented and published in booklets. A booklet was provided to eacArtist, Studio Night Participant, Planning Committee Member, and over 15 community partners/sponsors of the Breaking Barriers initiative. The exhibition booklets are available for purchase for $10 to help support the next Breaking Barriers Exhibition. Also available is a survey for feedback which includes a place to put contact info if you wish to become involved with Breaking Barriers.h

The show can still be viewed during each establishment’s regular business hours as the Exhibit will be up until March 30th, 2013.


To purchase Artwork contact Craig Janisse at Left Wing 519-359-9663. All commission proceeds from

Artwork sales will be donated locally. To request a group tour contact Danielle Shaw at 519-354-0430 Ext 213.

Reflecting on 30 years at United Way

This past Valentine’s Day, I celebrated 30 years of service with United Way of Chatham-Kent. Several folks have asked “So I’ll bet you’ve seen a lot of changes in that time!” While the answer is obviously “yes”, it got me thinking about some of the significant changes that I’ve witnessed over the past three decades in my role as Executive Director/CEO. And a lot of those changes have to do with technology.

 As a young thirty-something, it was my first foray into a leadership role in the not-for-profit sector. I had worked – over the previous 15 years — in business, government, health care and education, but always in an assisting position. I had much to learn. Although I had served for a couple of years as an Administrative Assistant for the Canadian Mental Health Association, I had little experience in the role of leading an organization and much less in supervising staff and working with volunteers – the people who truly make the difference in the work that we do. But, as the daughter of a civil engineer, I loved numbers and building things. At the time, I didn’t know what a rewarding career it would be.

 In February of 1983, the local United Way had just wrapped up its fall campaign – raising a total of $413,157 in Chatham and Tilbury only. After only one year “on the job”, the Board of Directors asked me to expand the campaign to cover all of Kent County (pre amalgamation). This involved numerous meetings with funded agencies and presentations to the various Town Councils in Wallaceburg, Blenheim, Ridgetown, Thamesville, Dresden and Bothwell. Before United Way was welcomed into these outlying areas, it was critical that each of the areas become educated about the services to be provided by the members of the United Way family of agencies. I vividly recall the presentation to one of the town councils. As I outlined how many folks would benefit from the services provided by CNIB – one of the agencies to be supported financially by United Way — I watched as members of the audience silently mouthed the names and counted on their fingers those in their home community who were blind or visually impaired – and then nodded – just to confirm my numbers. To this day, our organization’s “numbers served” or “service matrix” document is still a critically important component of our promotional strategy. The local media in each of these areas has been an outstanding partner in this process. Today, it is much easier – through the use of computerized spreadsheets – to stay on top of these numbers and to update them as necessary.

 I began my role with a part-time secretary and later acquired a part-time bookkeeper. We were housed in a small office in what is now the Montessori School adjacent to the Cultural Centre. Thanks to the generous support of local businesses who were buying new, I inherited an old oak desk which I placed in my office at the front of the building overlooking Tecumseh Park. And that is where I spent many hours meeting with volunteers and donors, typing minutes and agenda, tallying campaign pledges and preparing promotional materials for the annual fund-raising campaign.

 It was in the days before the computer, so things took a wee bit longer to complete. The ribbon on my manual typewriter (also a hand me down from a local bank) needed replacement often as reports were typed on stencils and run off on a Gestetner machine. It was a messy process. I often had to plan what I was going to wear to work to ensure that my clothing didn’t get ruined by the ink that usually covered the area from my wrists to my elbows when the printing job was done.

As the donations arrived, I recorded each contribution on foolscap (some of my younger staff have never heard of it) and again on recipe cards so I could keep donor names in alphabetical order in little file boxes. My adding machine (another well used donation) had a broken tape holder – so I added the columns on the foolscap while holding my breath to ensure that I didn’t punch in the wrong number. If I got the same answer three times in a row, I went home. I remember designing a brochure for one particular campaign using drawings from a kids colouring book. I wanted the little girl to place her head on her big brother’s shoulder so I sliced her paper neck with a pair of scissors and tilted her head southward to gain the affect I wanted. Funny how you recall such small accomplishments. What a difference graphics software makes today.

 We acquired a mascot in the person of “L’il Red” to accompany the promotion for our “L’il Red” household mailer and for our Red Feather events. Linda Creswick from Dream Costumes made us two of them (but don’t tell the children there was an imposter!) I was the first to wear the costume because you can never ask others to do what you are not prepared to do yourself. The Mayor of Blenheim never knew who gave him a hug at the hockey game that fall! Just like the training received at DisneyWorld, you can’t speak when you’re in the role of “L’il Red”.

 Thirty years later, our annual campaign has grown to over $2 million. Our organization is now serving over 32,000 residents – one in three – throughout Chatham-Kent – in every community. This past year we provided funding to 25 local member agencies, programs and services. Another 200 charitable organizations benefited from gifts provided through our Donor Choice Program. Our United Way Women’s Leadership Council supported hundreds of vulnerable women and children and our Community Impact Programs continue to make a positive difference in the lives of those we serve. We own our own building – affectionately called “The 425” – United Way’s Centre for Community innovation at 425 McNaughton Avenue West and we share it with numerous local not-for-profits and neighbourhood groups. And, we’re honoured to be a community leader and/or partner in some exciting community building initiatives currently underway. Today we have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn to assist us in our work. Am I’m still learning. Thank goodness that there are others out there who are willing to teach me.

 I look forward to sharing – in future monthly columns – more of United Way’s community impact work and the “change” which “starts here”!

Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, Chief Executive Officer

United Way Announces Community Impact Grants – Applications Now Available

At their 2013 FEBRUARY 27 meeting, the United Way Board of Directors approved the allocation of $60,000 for Community Impact Grants.

 The purpose of Community Impact funding is to enable not-for-profit human service agencies and organizations to respond quickly and creatively to pressing human needs in our community.  In addition to supporting quick response, Community Impact Grants allow time to develop program sustainability where the need is ongoing.

 With the Community Fund and the Women’s Leadership Council Grants as the traditional funding streams, United Way’s Director, Community Impact, Helen Heath, is delighted to provide yet another avenue of United Way funding. “The support we received through this year’s campaign exceeded our expectations.  As a result, we are now able to give an opportunity to more social service providers to explore new or improved ways of delivering needed services; develop services which address emerging or newly identified needs; respond to unmet needs and expand existing services into new communities through-out Chatham-Kent; or adopt models of service delivery which leverage existing community resources.”

Applications are available at United Way’s three locations: United Way Centre for Community Innovation – 425 McNaughton Avenue West, Chatham; Wallaceburg Information and H.E.L.P. Centre – 152 Duncan Street, Wallaceburg and Tilbury Information and H.E.L.P. Centre – 20 Queen Street, Tilbury.  Grant applications are also available on United Way’s new website at

 Deadline for submissions is 2013 MAY 15 at 5:00 pm.

 For more information contact Helen Heath, Director, Community Impact at 519-354-0430 or

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.