Message of hope helps launch $1.17M campaign
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Sep 20, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Message of hope helps launch $1.17M campaign

Stratford Gazette

Jeff Heuchert

Three boys cower under their sheets at night while listening to their father physically abuse their mother; a wife is burdened with the responsibility of caring for her husband with alzheimer’s; and a young man is forced to flee his abusive father and live on the street.

These true stories were shared with guests at the United Way Perth-Huron’s 2014 campaign kick-off luncheon, where guests were served not only a hearty meal but a sobering reminder as to the life-changing work that is supported through funds raised in the community.

“I told you some difficult stories because we have to,” said United Way executive director Ryan Erb. “We have to know those things that exist in our community.”

But the message delivered Friday at the Kiwanis Centre prior to the United Way revealing its new fundraising goal was anything but dour.

Instead, it was a message of hope, punctuated by Erb explaining that, through the dollars the United Way collects across the two counties, each of the families was able to dramatically improve their circumstances by receiving assistance from one of the nearly 50 agencies, programs and projects it supports each year.

“The power of possibility is an amazing thing,” he said.

With the needs in the community still great, there’s no scaling back expectation again this year. A goal of $1,170,000 was enthusiastically announced by the campaign co-chairs, Stratford Police Chief John Bates and Wayne Smith of Goderich, who co-chaired last year’s campaign as well.

Eight per cent of the campaign has already been reached thanks to early donors.

The$1.17 million goal is $55,000 more than the goal set in 2013 and $19,000 more than what was ultimately reached. But Bates said it was a reasonable target that once achieved will go a long way towards enriching the lives of people in the communities that the United Way serves.

Speaking about his decision to join the campaign, Bates said he sees the role of co-chair as an extension of his duties as a police leader in the province.

“We view ourselves as not just crime preventers and law enforcers ... We also look at ourselves as being community builders,” he added.

Bates said he looks forward to working with all of the United Way staff and volunteers to make this year’s campaign “the most successful one in our history.”

Speaking from experience, Smith said the campaign can be a lot of fun, and noted he has been active with the United Way since 1998 for many good reasons, not the least of which is that it’s a very efficient operation. Only six per cent of money raised last year went towards the campaign’s costs, he noted.

“What that does is allows our agencies to concentrate on what their mission is and achieving that mission,” he said.

Smith added the United Way is much more than a fundraiser. It’s an incubator, researcher, advocate and community partner that it is constantly reviewing what needs to be supported to make a better community.

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