Putting donations to work

With so many charitable organizations seeking public support, donors want to know “how much of my donation actually gets to the people who need it?”

United Way helps both non-profit organizations and businesses to achieve their community goals, by providing a hand up. As a broad network with 64 years of history serving the Central Okanagan, the organization leverages many types of resources so that the benefit to the community exceeds the initial investment.

Pathways Abilities Society, one of United Way’s longest-standing partner agencies, is a great example of leveraging partnerships and resources. Recently, the charity applied to United Way for grant funding to help with an important goal: building relationships with local businesses in order to increase employment opportunities for adults with diverse abilities. United Way provided a grant of $5000 towards this project, but the value to the community was much higher thanks to everyone who got involved.

Creating employment opportunities for persons with diverse abilities is about more than wages or job descriptions; it starts with knowing that every person brings unique abilities and needs to their work.  When a person with a disability seeks work, they face both practical challenges (such as a need for equipment to be adapted) and attitudinal barriers (such as stereotypes).

With growing labour shortages in our region and an aging work force, groups that have not traditionally been top of mind for employers are an untapped resource. Persons with diverse abilities are ready and able to work. Their contributions make our communities better places to live; whether they are providing recycling services, helping people with grocery purchases at the supermarket checkout, or creating wooden fencing and boxes for birds and bees, the individuals employed through Pathways are an integral part of our local work scene.

Katarina Gerhardt began working for Home Depot in Kelowna April of 2012 in a seasonal position in the garden center.  Katarina’s friendly and caring personality is a natural match for a customer service job.  She quickly demonstrated an aptitude for sales.  Katarina continued on with part time work at the store after the gardening season ended and has been there ever since.  Katarina is a valued member of the Home Depot team. 

Myrna Park of Century 21 Assurance Reality Ltd, a United Way volunteer, is an employer that understands the benefit of hiring individuals who have diverse abilities.  Myrna has developed a partnership with Pathways and has created several jobs for people in her place of business.  Two people are employed part time to complete tasks around the office: cleaning, watering plants, shredding, and dusting.  Two other men are employed seasonally for yard maintenance.

To increase the impact of funding and achieve greater results, United Way also invites people with diverse abilities to share their stories during presentations with local business leaders, workplaces and service clubs. One of United Way’s workplace campaign coordinators volunteered with the group of self-advocates, drawing on his public speaking training to help them improve their storytelling skills.

United Way is much more than a funder. When Pathways Abilities Society was planning community focus groups as part of their employment project, United Way was able to blast the information out to the entire network of non-profits, businesses, and private individuals who comprise the movement for change, reaching thousands of people who have the ability to get involved.

A gift to United Way can mean giving, volunteering, or acting to create a better community for everyone. 100% of every gift results in impact, being compounded by other gifts, to deliver even higher returns from the initial investment. Since impact is multiplied by many hands working together, lives improve every day.  That’s the United Way.


Column 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.

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About the Author

The mission of United Way is to improve lives and build community by engaging individuals and mobilizing collective action.

We call this our Community Impact Mission. Community impact is about achieving meaningful, long-term improvements to the quality of life in Canadian communities, by addressing not just the symptoms of problems but also getting at the root causes. It’s about making fundamental changes to community conditions.

United Way is achieving this mission by moving people from poverty to possibility, promoting healthy people and strong communities, and supporting all that kids can be.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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