United Way exceeds campaign goal
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Feb 21, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

United Way exceeds campaign goal

Stratford Gazette

Jeff Heuchert editor@stratfordgazette.com

The lofty target set by the United Way Perth-Huron for its 2013 campaign turned out not to be so daunting when compared to the many individuals, workplace, and corporate donors whose generosity reached new heights over the last five months.

The organization announced Thursday evening at its 16th annual awards dinner a fundraising total of $1.133 million, more than $18,000 over its goal. The total is the largest ever for a local United Way campaign.

"We want to thank everyone who worked so hard … we're very proud that we not only met but we've exceeded our goal," said campaign co-chair Ron Shaw.

Similar to years past, the 2013 campaign was buoyed by some last-minute efforts by organizers, most notably the Care-A-Van of Hope in December, which brought in an additional $75,000. The campaign was sitting at 95 per cent in late January before receiving one last boost on Feb. 10, when past campaign co-chair, Elizabeth Cooper, helped organize a fundraiser at Downie Street Burgers.

Speaking at Thursday's dinner, United Way executive director, Ryan Erb, said the money raised – an increase of over $50,000 from last year – is an incredible achievement worth celebrating, but noted it is simply a means to an end.

He said it's the over 50 agencies, projects, and programs the United Way supports with donated dollars that deserve the biggest thanks.

"The United Way is nothing without you," he added.

Erb also encouraged everyone in attendance to not just think about the United Way and its supported agencies once a year, but to show the same kind of generous spirit year-round, noting people in our communities face many challenges that are hard and can't be tackled alone.

"Together, we are definitely stronger," he said.

Close to 200 people attended the dinner at the Arden Park to celebrate the campaign's successes, for which there were many. Awards were handed out recognizing top money raisers in various categories as well as to anyone who went above and beyond to support the organization.

Reflecting on the campaign, fellow co-chair, Wayne Smith, said the experience had been great not only because of the United Way's "formidable" team of volunteers and professionals, but because of the many generous and engaged people he met in communities along the way.

"It's a real experience doing this. You get a wonderful sense of your fellow community members," he added.

On his travels Smith said he discovered that people who took the time to listen to what the United Way is all about responded positively. Building upon that momentum and fostering longterm relationships is key to the organization's success moving forward, he noted.

"Because United Way just doesn't do the one campaign," he added. "It's got to do it over and over every year because there are a lot of people depending on that sustainability."

His co-chair, Shaw, noted many of the skills he's developed in his years in civic administration – he is the CAO for the City of Stratford – didn't necessarily come into play during the campaign. Instead, he found he needed to be a good salesman, particularly in an environment like today's where there is much competition for charitable dollars. Because of this, brand recognition plays an important factor in the United Way's success, he said, adding, "I ask each one of you to make sure that we protect and promote this brand in the days, months, and years ahead."

Shaw said he also came to appreciate how many people lack certain skills and opportunities and need to rely on a United Way-supported agency. The money raised throughout the campaign can have a profound impact on an individual's quality of life as well as their family's.

The money raised is worthy or pride, but it is still not enough, he added, noting many deserving programs, totaling approximately $160,000, went unfunded last year.

"I hope we can continue to grow this campaign in the years ahead, and be able to touch the lives of other people in our community," he added.

Donations are still being accepted until March 31 at the United Way office on Erie Street, online at perthhuron.unitedway.ca, or by phone at 1-877-818-8867.

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