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 goodneighbours@uwock.ca.

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

Staples Encouraging Shoppers to Give Back to CK

StaplesDuring this back to school shopping time, Staples Chatham is encouraging the community to give back to CK by making a monetary donation at the till.

“This time of year can be stressful for parents. They want to provide all the necessary school supplies for their child to succeed but it can be a financial burden. Operation BackPacks and the support provided by Staples customers can help lessen that stress and make back to school an exciting time,” said Mary Symons, Good Neighbours Coordinator.

Brian Furtado, Staples Sales Manager says “Staples has been a proud supporter of this program for 13 years. With four weeks left until school starts, we want to encourage our shoppers to consider donating a few dollars at the check out to support the program. Customers can make contributions up until September 14th, ensuring all children in CK have the supplies they need.”

It is not too late to request a backpack! Parents or guardians can request a backpack for their children online by following this link.

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.

Community Building Grants – Applications Now Available

The United Way Board of Directors has approved the allocation of $40,000 for 2016-2017 Community Building 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 Building Grants allow time to develop program sustainability where the need is ongoing.

“Our Board is committed to providing funding opportunities to address new and emerging needs in our community.  These grants will allow 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 throughout Chatham-Kent; or adopt models of service delivery which leverage existing community resources,” said Helen Heath, Director, Community Impact.

Again this year $25,000 will be specifically allocated to new programs and initiatives, of which $20,000 is earmarked for programs focused on youth living in poverty and at risk of homelessness or experiencing homelessness.

Additionally, $15,000 will be specifically allocated through the Bushels of Hope Future Fund. This portion aims to position our community to take full advantage of – and provide financial support for – innovative ideas in agriculture, promote local food and enhance food literacy.

Applications are available online here.

Deadline for submissions is 2016 AUG 15 at 5:00 p.m.

For more information contact Helen Heath, Director, Community Impact at 519-354-0430 or helen@uwock.ca

Operation BackPacks – taking referrals and asking for support

Although the school year is just wrapping up, Operation BackPacks is already preparing for September. The program aims to provide local children with new backpacks and school supplies – the tools they need to achieve academic success – and help alleviate the financial stress parents face each new school year.

“The start of a new school year is an exciting time for most children, but for some children, it is a time of emotional and academic challenges. Without even the most basic supplies, these students start at a disadvantage that only worsens as the school year progresses,” says Michelle Root, Assistant Co-ordinator.

With support from Giant Tiger, Staples, the United Way of Chatham-Kent’s Women’s Leadership Council and numerous local organizations and businesses, Operation BackPacks hopes 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. Alternatively, parents can call 519-354-0430 to speak with the Co-ordinator. Your 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 a similar backpack. 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.