Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
The United Way Perth-Huron did away with its traditional "Poor Boy's luncheon" of beans and wieners this year, instead serving an inexpensive yet healthy meal consisting of thinly sliced beef brisket with tomatoes, lettuce, pickles and onion, salad, soup, and roasted eggplant.
The meal, prepared with assistance from the Local Community Food Centre, a United Way-funded organization, was an intentional decision by the agency to help shed light on the issue of food security.
"We wanted to make a statement … healthy food is a right for everyone," United Way executive director, Ryan Erb, said at Friday's event at the Kiwanis Centre. "There are people in our community who struggle … aren't able to make ends meet and end up using one of the food banks in our region. We want to make sure those people in our community are supplied with healthy food just like everyone else."
Food inequality is one of the many local challenges the United Way hopes to address through dollars raised from its 2013 campaign, which was kicked off at the luncheon with the reveal of this year's goal: $1,115,000, which represents an approximately $32,000 jump over last year.
"We were thinking this year to stretch ourselves a little bit, but we really think we can do it," said Erb. "We've had good signs already early in the campaign. We're already a little ahead where we were last year, so I'm comfortable that we're going to beat that new campaign goal."
City of Stratford CAO, Ron Shaw, who is this year's campaign co-chair along with Wayne Smith of Goderich, a former United Way board member, said 13 per cent of the goal, just shy of $150,000, had already been collected before the day.
"We're on target, and we just need to keep that momentum going," he added, noting the United Way relies on an "army of people who give small amounts" just as much as large contributors to achieve its goal every year, and called on everyone in attendance for the luncheon to encourage the people in their personal and professional lives to consider supporting the agency.
Despite the money raised each year by the Untied Way, which supports roughly 50 member agencies, more than $60,000 in contribution requests cannot be accommodated each year, Shaw noted, adding the agency must make sure it not only meets its goal this year but continues to reach increasingly greater amounts in the future to narrow that funding gap.
His co-chair, Smith, said the United Way thrives on good people, and he anticipates meeting many of them throughout the campaign. The agency also has a powerful story to tell about how the public's donations can improve many people's lives, he added.
That message will look a little different this year, thanks to a new digital message board in Goderich that can be controlled remotely and will display campaign achievements and communicate valuable information.
In Stratford, the United Way's downtown thermometer is also getting a facelift. A new thermometer will be installed in the coming weeks that, like the board in Goderich, can be updated from the agency's office, saving Festival Hydro a trip with the cherry picker.
Speaking at the luncheon, mayor Dan Mathieson noted one-in-three residents in Perth and Huron counties rely on the services of an organization funded by the United Way. With that in mind, he urged everyone to "dig deep, make an impact, contribute in any way possible … and play a part in the lives of those less fortunate and those needing a hand up and not a hand out."