Many people are surprised to learn that there are more than 100 local United Ways in Canada. Each United Way serves multiple communities within their territory. In the Okanagan region, there are two United Ways: North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap (serving the region spanning from Vernon to Golden , Nakusp and Sorrento) and Central and South Okanagan Similkameen (serving the region from Oyama to Osoyoos and Princeton.
A wise person once stated that day to day interactions are the building blocks of our society. United Way is made of local community members, who bring together their financial resources, knowledge, skill sets, visions, labour, media, community leaders, and a host of other resources that can be leveraged to create change in an efficient and lasting way. As each person reaches out within their own network and engages others, hands and hearts join to form a social safety net. That net is the United Way.
The vast majority of United Way’s “hands on deck” are volunteers; a small number of staff in the Okanagan help to coordinate this collective of caring and committed citizens. This is one of the reasons that United Way is so efficient. Another reason is the ability to leverage everyone’s resources, so that the impact of the movement is greater than the initial investment.
Here’s how it works in practice. Someone connected to United Way visits a children’s charity. They learn that the playground has a safety problem. The charity doesn’t have the money, time, or skills to repair the problem, but the children still need a safe place to play. A phone call is placed to one of the companies who run a workplace fundraising campaign, and they mobilize a team of employee volunteers to help out. The charity learns that they can apply to the United Way Community Fund to cover the cost of materials, and a volunteer team reviews the application to make a funding decision. Local media help out by letting everyone in the community know what is happening. A café provides sandwiches and coffee for the volunteers. A tradesperson steps forward to contribute expertise to the repair job. The municipality helps with getting the proper licensing and inspection for the work.
As more people get involved, they too discover that they have ways to give, volunteer, or take action to support kids. In this way, the needs of children in the community are taken care of, which makes the community stronger and healthier for everyone.
In addition to supporting children and youth, United Way also works to create change on issues like health and wellness, the needs of seniors, abuse, diverse abilities, and poverty.
Many people don’t realize that the services they rely on are supported by United Way. Know someone who had surgery and needed to borrow medical equipment? Or do you know any young people who have attended a youth centre or looked for volunteer opportunities? Have you been touched by someone with a mental illness, or do you know a senior who struggles with day to day tasks? United Way has a positive impact on all of these social issues.
Want to belong to a thriving movement, and see your contributions result in real change? Check out your local United Way. For the North Okanagan, visit www.unitedwaynocs.com. For Central and South Okanagan, visit www.unitedwaycso.com . We can’t wait to meet you!
This column was submitted by Avril Paice, Director of Community Investment, United Way of the Central and South Okanagan Similkameen.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.