Giving Back Never Felt So Good!

by Dakota Halfpenny on June 14, 2024 Comments Off on Giving Back Never Felt So Good!
2024 Day of Caring, group of volunteers at the London kick-off event

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In the last 6 months, London Coffee House has delivered services to 1,500 unique individuals, linking people with resources and community. They come for food, basic needs and just having a connection to community. United Way is the sole funder of London Coffee House. Without United Way and all of you, London Coffee House would not exist.”

Rose Whalen
Team Lead, Outreach Programs, CMHA Thames Valley Addiction & Mental Health Services

480 volunteers give their time to support 30 social service agencies across Elgin and Middlesex for United Way’s Day of Caring!

It doesn’t get better than this!

On June 13th, 480 volunteers from 25 workplaces dispersed across Elgin and Middlesex to give their time and support to 30 social service agencies, tackling significant projects.  

These incredible volunteers and community champions undertook essential tasks for agencies across the region, helping them accomplish big items on their to-do lists. From gardening, power washing, and painting to sorting clothing donations, organizing spaces, and doing outdoor clean-up, volunteers rolled up their sleeves to help others. 

Group of Enbridge volunteers gardening at Nextwave Youth Centre

Although Day of Caring is only one day, its impacts will last much longer. Clients of these agencies, and the agencies themselves, experience tangible benefits from the work done. At the same time, the volunteers and their workplaces have the chance to see first-hand the crucial work these agencies do in our community every single day.  

“In just one day, volunteers will give 2,400 hours of their time, sharing their skills and passion to improve the lives of others. These projects, that agencies may otherwise not have the resources to complete, become a powerful wave of good, sending ripples of hope throughout our community,” said Kelly Ziegner, President and CEO of United Way Elgin Middlesex. 

Starting the day off right, four Day of Caring kick-off pizza parties took place in London, St. Thomas, Strathroy, and Dorchester, where volunteers came together, celebrated the excitement of the day, and heard special remarks before departing to their volunteer locations. 

Sifton Properties group volunteering at Community Living London

“In the last 6 months, London Coffee House has delivered services to 1,500 unique individuals, linking people with resources and community. They come for food, basic needs and just having a connection to community. United Way is the sole funder of London Coffee House. Without United Way and all of you, London Coffee House would not exist”, said Rose Whalen, Team Lead, Outreach Programs, CMHA Thames Valley Addiction & Mental Health Services. 

Thanks to Libro Credit Union, this year marked the 23rd year for Day of Caring and Libro’s 8th consecutive year as presenting sponsor. 

“We love, love, love the United Way Day of Caring. Libro staff look forward to it all year, and we all enjoy getting out into the community and making a difference on so many projects. It’s just part of the way our credit union makes an impact in partnership with local groups, and we’re proud to be an organization making an impact,” said Laura Husser, Community Manager, London South Branch, Libro Credit Union. 

Group of Libro volunteers cleaning up a garden at Family Services Thames Valley for Day of Caring

With another successful Day of Caring in the books, it is clear that our community’s dedication to supporting their neighbours in need only continues to grow, truly demonstrating that we are all United. 

See our Facebook gallery for photos from Day of Caring.

Thank you to our Presenting Sponsor

Libro Credit Union

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Dakota HalfpennyGiving Back Never Felt So Good!

United Way’s local Labour Partners celebrated

by Dakota Halfpenny on May 29, 2024 Comments Off on United Way’s local Labour Partners celebrated

Last night, labour advocates and allies came together at the Elgin County Railway Museum to celebrate the incredible contributions of the labour community in 2023 at United Way Elgin Middlesex’s annual Labour Appreciation Awards Night.

With over 100 volunteers, supporters, donors and loved ones in attendance, 10 awards were given out for their efforts in 2023. Each award recipient was nominated by labour friends and allies for their tireless work to improve our community and serve our neighbours in need. 

Helping guests to learn first-hand about the impact of their contribution, Jennifer Dunn, Executive Director of London Abused Women’s Centre and keynote speaker Heather Erlen, Ontario Director of the Canadian Labour Congress shared impactful insights 

“Services that the London Abused Women’s Centre provides are vital. It is important that women using these services have access to opportunities. The New Beginnings Loan Fund is one of those opportunities”. Jennifer Dunn, Executive Director, London Abused Women’s Centre.  

For the first time, the event also included a live auction! We raised $1,300 which will directly benefit the New Beginnings Loan Fund, along with other impactful local initiatives. 

The New Beginnings Loan Fund is an initiative designed to help break the cycle of familial abuse. Last year, 128 women and children found support through this program. 

“Last night, we celebrated the good work of our local labour partners who continually put the needs and care of others before themselves. We are truly thankful for each and every member of the labour community for their leadership and commitment to supporting those most vulnerable in Elgin Middlesex to ensure they are supported.” – Kelly Ziegner, CEO & President, United Way Elgin Middlesex. 

Thank you to all our attendees and the entire labour community. We look forward to what we can create and achieve together. In solidarity, United.

Check out our list of winners below or read more about them here. See all photos from the event on our Facebook page.

Labour Appreciation Awards: 

  • Tischa Forster, OPSEU/SEFPO Local 133 
  • Sharon Stanley, CUPE Local 
  • Jose Blanco, LiUNA Local 1059 
  • Amelia Ertel, OPSEU Local 109 
  • Darryl Bedford, OPSEU Local 110 
  • Sarah Wells, OPSEU Local 109  
  • Connor Pierotti, OSSTF District 11
  • Frank Carreiro, Liuna Local 1059

ChangeMaker Award: 

  • Cooper Standard, Unifor 27 Unit #53

Jim MacKinnon Community Builder Award: 

  • Greg Bierbaum, Old Oak Properties 

Labour Appreciation Lifetime Achievement Award: 

  • Jim Wilkes, Unifor 27 Retiree
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Dakota HalfpennyUnited Way’s local Labour Partners celebrated

Kristen Korhonen is set to lead the 2024 Campaign

by Dakota Halfpenny on May 23, 2024 Comments Off on Kristen Korhonen is set to lead the 2024 Campaign
Introducing Kristen Korhonen, Regional Vice President, Personal Banking, for Greater London-Sarnia at BMO Financial Group, United Way 2024 Community Campaign chair

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“I love the spirit of the phrase ‘Bloom where you’re planted.’ It’s become my motto in life. I think it’s really important that people give back to the communities where they live and work because we all have the potential to make an impact.”

Kristen Korhonen
Regional Vice President, Personal Banking, ​for Greater London-Sarnia at BMO Bank of Montreal, United Way 2024 Community Campaign chair

Kristen Korhonen has moved around – a lot. And in each new community, she’s found a way to plant seeds of hope by engaging in local challenges. It’s all part of her life motto: ‘Bloom where you’re planted.’ Now, Kristen is planted in the London region and excited to be focusing her efforts on helping people in London, Elgin-Middlesex. Kristen has set her sights on growing community engagement in fundraising efforts as United Way 2024 Campaign Chair.

Tell us about your life motto: Bloom where you’re planted.

I’ve moved around a lot, and each community has its own challenges and its own strengths. I really think it’s important that wherever you are, you keep informed about local issues and look around to see what you can do. I’ve lived in a lot of places, including Mississauga, Kingston, Toronto, Boston, Red Deer and now London – each community has different perspectives.

I feel strongly that we should be accountable to our community, and that we can all have an impact, big or small.

What are some challenges you see facing this community?

Cost of living and affordable housing are top of mind for so many people right now. You can talk to anyone across the country and those are things people are worried about. People are really facing a lot of challenges in all of our different communities.

What gives you hope right now?

Our community gives me hope. We have seen so many examples across this region where people are coming together to help each other out – it’s happening every day. I’m also hopeful about the innovative partnerships that have been happening among community and business leaders to do things like convert buildings to affordable housing. That takes various people and groups coming together in creative ways to make life better in our community. These sorts of partnerships are precedent-setting and attract municipal and community support.

How can the United Way campaign cabinet help overcome these challenges?

We have an incredible cabinet this year. We are diverse, accomplished and passionate; we want to make an impact.

We know relationships are at the core of what makes us successful. So, when we talk about the activities needed for a successful campaign, I’m looking at it through the lens of building relationships. We want to expand awareness of the campaign beyond those who already know and support it. Through our leadership and connections, this cabinet has a real opportunity to expand our reach and that will help increase the impact.

What’s unique about this campaign?

Even though it’s been a few years since the pandemic, many organizations are just getting back into their groove in a lot of ways. So, while we adjust to that and start returning to community engagements, we have an opportunity to bring more people into the fold and to unite over our shared obligation to give back to the communities where we live and work.

Why did you decide to get involved with United Way Elgin Middlesex?

BMO is such a big United Way supporter. It’s built into our culture to get involved in the community and grow the good. I was active on the donation front in Toronto, then got involved in the cabinet out in Red Deer.

What do you want other people to know about United Way?

United Way supports such a wide spectrum of causes within our local communities. So, if people are interested in helping children, they can do that through United Way. If they want to help newcomers, or elderly residents or people navigating the challenges of poverty or any other group in the community, they know that supporting United Way means they are making a difference.

And for corporations, I’ve seen how United Way events bring people together in a way that they’ve never been together before. At BMO, United Way brings different teams together for events like the Day of Caring, the Stair Climb and Harvest Lunch.

People get really into it. It’s an employee engagement win, a community win and a United Way win.

What life and volunteer experience do you bring to this role?

Does being a Brownie count? I started at age six, then went into Girl Guides, which is all about community. But before United Way, my most significant volunteer work as an adult was with Camp Oochigeas. I used to take a week every year to volunteer as a camp counsellor for kids who were living with cancer. It was life changing.

You are a breast cancer survivor. What part has your experience with cancer played in your journey that has led you to this role as campaign chair.

My cancer experience was not the impetus for me to give back and volunteer, but it certainly was a reinforcement. During my journey, I was extremely fortunate for the support I received from family, friends and my employer at the time.

I was acutely aware that not everyone has that support in their immediate circle. It was an eye-opening experience in terms of navigating the medical system. When I think about those who don’t have this support system, people struggling to access life’s basic needs, those experiencing gender-based violence or children living in poverty as examples, I think about how important it is for our community to come together and become the support system that our fellow neighbours need. It reinforces for me the power of our impact — even if it’s just for one person.

Meet our 2023 Community Campaign Cabinet

Kristen Korhonen, Regional Vice President, Greater London-Sarnia, BMO 2024 Campaign chair

Kristen Korhonen
Regional Vice President, Personal Banking, ​for Greater London-Sarnia at BMO Bank of Montreal
2024 Campaign chair

Mark Egbedeyi – Emmanuel, General Manager, EPCOR, Past Campaign chair

Mark Egbedeyi – Emmanuel
General Manager, EPCOR
Past Campaign chair

Don Beauchamp, Manager, Central Operations, Enbridge Gas Inc., Campaign Ambassador

Don Beauchamp
Manager, Central Operations, Enbridge Gas Inc.
Campaign Ambassador

Joseph Calvo, Business Representative, LiUNA Local 1059, Campaign Ambassador

Joseph Calvo
Business Representative, LiUNA Local 1059
Campaign Ambassador

Doug Carter, Amazon Merchandising Manager, StarTech.com, Campaign Ambassador

Doug Carter
Amazon Merchandising Manager, StarTech.com
Campaign Ambassador

Erika Chamberlain
Professor, Faculty of Law, Western University
Campaign Ambassador

Stephanie Circelli, Superintendant, LDCSB, Campaign Ambassador

Stephanie Circelli
Superintendant, LDCSB
Campaign Ambassador

Cathryn Clemente, Brand Manager, Amway Retiree, Campaign Ambassador

Cathryn Clemente
Brand Manager, Amway Retiree
Campaign Ambassador

Jenny Daboud, AVP Client Service Centre, Canada Life, Campaign Ambassador

Jenny Daboud
AVP Client Service Centre, Canada Life
Campaign Ambassador

Michael de Henestrosa, Head of Marketing, The Seabrook Financial Group CIBC Wood Gundy, Private Wealth, Campaign Ambassador

Michael de Henestrosa
Administrative Assistant, The Seabrook Financial Group CIBC Wood Gundy, Private Wealth
Campaign Ambassador

Michelle Gregorio, Regional Manager, Elgin, Scotiabank, Campaign Ambassador

Michelle Gregorio
Regional Manager, Elgin, Scotiabank
Campaign Ambassador

Melissa Holden
Manager, Mobile Mortgage Specialist, TD Canada Trust
Campaign Ambassador

Steve Lambert
Global Delivery Lead, McCormick Canada
Campaign Ambassador

Duncan McLean, Partner, PwC, Campaign Ambassador

Duncan McLean
Partner, PwC
Campaign Ambassador

Kim Miller, Executive Director, Career Management & Corporate Recruiting, Ivey Business School, Western University, Campaign Ambassador

Kim Miller 
Executive Director, Career Management & Corporate Recruiting, Ivey Business School, Western University
Campaign Ambassador

Renee Shave
Principal, B. Davison Secondary School
Campaign Ambassador

Angie Turner, Director, Human Resources, General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada, Campaign Ambassador

Angie Turner
Director, Human Resources, General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada
Campaign Ambassador

Dave Whiting, Retiree Group, 3M Canada, Campaign Ambassador

Dave Whiting
Retiree Group, 3M Canada
Campaign Ambassador

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Dakota HalfpennyKristen Korhonen is set to lead the 2024 Campaign

Funds help Aylmer bring affordable, world-class entertainment to children in town

by Dakota Halfpenny on May 22, 2024 Comments Off on Funds help Aylmer bring affordable, world-class entertainment to children in town
Dan the Music Man performing at Aylmer’s Old Town Hall Theatre as children dancing and singing in the foreground

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I’m excited about it. I used to bring my kids and now I’m taking my grandkids. It’s great that families don’t have to leave the community for good entertainment. When they realize the quality of the experience we can give the kids, in our town in an awesome theatre, they are happy.”

Carol Stockford
one of the founders of the original Kids & Co

It’s not often you see little kids dancing, laughing and being silly in a 150-year opera house.

But it sure brings the place to life.

And it’s exactly what happened at the Aylmer Old Town Hall last month, when children’s entertainer Dan the Music Man took the stage for an energetic debut of the town’s relaunched Kids & Company performance group.

“It was really wonderful,” said Mike Sereda, chair of Kids & Company. “Children were having fun and parents and grandparents were laughing and talking and singing along. The sense of community was really strong.”

Mike Sereda, chair of Kids & Company

The event was also a perfect way for Aylmer Performing Arts Council to re-introduce Kids & Company – a beloved group that had folded in 2017 after 23 years of bringing top-quality, affordable, live children’s shows to Aylmer.

With support from many in the community, APAC used federal pandemic recovery funds allocated by United Way Elgin Middlesex to bring the organization back as a new program under the council’s performing arts umbrella.

‘I used to bring my kids and now I’m taking my grandkids’

“I’m excited about it. I used to bring my kids and now I’m taking my grandkids,” said Carol Stockford, who was one of the founders of the original Kids & Co. “It’s great that families don’t have to leave the community for good entertainment. When they realize the quality of the experience we can give the kids, in our town in an awesome theatre, they are happy.”

APAC’s goal is to make great music and theatre affordable for Aylmer residents by bringing big names to the small town for reasonable prices. Past performers include John McDermott, Rik Emmett, Emm Gryner, Dan Hill and, earlier this year, Ron Sexsmith and Chad Price.

Aylmer Performing Arts Council members

All performances take place at Old Town Hall, a spectacular theatre that has had the Union Jack painted on its ceiling for more than a century. APAC keeps ticket prices low by relying on volunteers and sponsors who aim to ensure all community members may attend despite socio-economic status.

Struggling to stay afloat since pandemic

Still, it had been struggling to stay afloat since the COVID-19 pandemic, when due to restrictions, the organization canceled performances for more than two years.

Realizing they needed a new strategy to engage volunteers and stay relevant, APAC organizers recalled that years earlier, the publisher of the local Aylmer Express wrote an editorial saying APAC should pick up Kids & Co.

“When we saw there was an opportunity for the grant through United Way, that seemed like our chance to do it,” said Sereda. “It helped us look at things differently.”

Grandmother and grand daughter watching the performance

Funding has sparked new flow of donations, sponsorships

Adding kids programming to its portfolio has already been a boost for APAC, sparking a new flow of donations and sponsorships from loyal businesses and service clubs in the area.

And it’s been a treat for the growing community of 8,000, which includes many families and a significant Low German speaking Mennonite community whose families often have several children.

“It’s been a great way to bring kids together for good, wholesome, no-tech activities,” said APAC co-ordinator and consultant, Nicole Pressey. “It can be hard to find a lot of family activities in a small town, so to make something affordable for a family of five is just really appreciated.”

“This funding is helping us keep our ticket prices reasonable, which is so amazing for outreach, and I’m just excited to be involved in it.”

APAC is one of 26 organizations United Way Elgin Middlesex allocated to receive funding from the Government of Canada’s Community Services Recovery Fund to address needs that have emerged or increased since the start of COVID-19.

Relaunch draws praise, volunteers

APAC used the funds to hire a project co-ordinator & consultant to help with marketing and volunteer coordinating and to strengthen the organization.

As an organization, it’s already stronger.

Children sitting on stage after Aylmer Performing Arts Council performance

“I asked about five people to volunteer, and they immediately said yes,” said Kevin Morrell owner of a local art gallery and longtime member of APAC. “And at a meeting, an ex-mayor got up and commended us for getting Kids & Co going again.”

Cheryl Duffett is one of those new volunteers. She was motivated to help by her fond memories of bringing her children and foster children to the shows when they were younger.

“It was just so much fun to head on to the library and go upstairs and have this wonderful experience,” said Cheryl.

“My daughter attended and now she’ll be bringing her daughter.”

See the full list of funded projects and for more information about the Community Services Recovery Fund.

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Dakota HalfpennyFunds help Aylmer bring affordable, world-class entertainment to children in town

TD Bank wins the 2023 Caring Cup!

by Dakota Halfpenny on May 16, 2024 Comments Off on TD Bank wins the 2023 Caring Cup!
2023 Caring Cup winner, TD Bank

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We are absolutely thrilled to have won the Caring Cup this year! United way is such a big part of our culture at TD, it’s amazing to see colleagues across all channels of the bank come together in support of such an important organization to our community.”

Melissa Holden
Manager, Mobile Mortgage Specialist at TD Canada Trust

It is no secret that financial institutions are highly committed to giving back. Through participation in events, volunteerism and employee and corporate giving, time and again they show their passion for the community. The Caring Cup, whose scoring is based on several factors including increased employee giving and participation, corporate support, events and activities, is the perfect way to combine giving back and some healthy competition.

It was a tight race this year, with both BMO and TD boasting phenomenal results and being prominent supporters of United Way’s Signature events such as the 3M Harvest Lunch, TD StairClimb and Day of Caring presented by Libro. It was a close call and this year, we were pleased to announce TD Bank as our Caring Cup winner.

The TD Bank team really stepped up their game this year, with a 32% increase in staff participation and giving as well as a large increase in leadership giving. Further reinforcing their dedication to supporting others, they were once again the title sponsor for the TD StairClimb.

United Way was also fortunate to partner with Melissa Holden, Manager, Mobile Mortgage Specialist at TD Canada Trust, in her capacity as a Campaign Cabinet member. “We are absolutely thrilled to have won the Caring Cup this year! United way is such a big part of our culture at TD, it’s amazing to see colleagues across all channels of the bank come together in support of such an important organization to our community”.

Kelly Ziegner, President and CEO of United Way Elgin Middlesex, said, “We continue to be so impressed by TD and everything they have done, and continue to do, for our community. It is clear that giving back and helping others is part of their DNA and we couldn’t be more appreciative”.

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Dakota HalfpennyTD Bank wins the 2023 Caring Cup!

United We Lead

by Dakota Halfpenny on May 3, 2024 Comments Off on United We Lead
The #LoveLove Letter, United Way Elgin Middlesex

local news with impact

Kelly Ziegner, President & CEO United Way Elgin Middlesex

The sun is shining and spring is in the air. This felt like the perfect time to take a step back and express my gratitude for the many volunteers we have the pleasure of working with on a daily basis. These volunteers are the backbone of our organization and show their dedication every day to creating lasting change in our community.

From workplace champions and allocations committee to our Campaign Cabinet and Board of Directors, we are so lucky to be surrounded by leaders who inspire us every day.

On April 23rd, we had the chance to celebrate many of these incredible leaders at our annual ChangeMakers event. It was a night filled with recognition and gratitude for everyone who gave of their time and donations to United Way over the past year.

That evening, we were also thrilled to award Jeff Macoun with the United Way ChangeMakers Lifetime Achievement Award. His dedication to our community is truly inspiring and I am so thankful for everything he has done to support our community.

We also had the pleasure of announcing Kristen Korhonen, Regional Vice President, Personal Banking, for Greater London-Sarnia at BMO Financial Group, United Way 2024 Community Campaign chair. We are excited to begin planning for our 2024 Campaign under her leadership.

I am so grateful for the volunteers who give their time and energy to United Way. Because of these amazing people, United Way is able to invest, advocate, and collaborate across the Elgin Middlesex community to support our friends, neighbors, and colleagues in need.

To our volunteers: Your generosity and kindness make a real difference in the lives of so many – thank you!

United We Lead.


 

 

Kelly Ziegner
President & CEO, United Way Elgin Middlesex

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ChangeMakers Awards — Thank you once again to all of our incredible volunteers who have supported our work. We are pleased to share the full listing of our ChangeMakers award winners with you!

211 is here for you — If you need help for you or a loved one, call 211 to speak to a Navigator who can connect you to information, programs and services close to home. Free, confidential and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in over 150 languages by phone, live chat and email.

Labour Appreciation Awards Night — We hope you can join us for the Labour Appreciation Awards Night on May 28th and help us thank local activists for their incredible support. Please click here to register.

LiUNA 1059 Charity Golf Tournament — Once again this year, LiUNA Local 1059 is having its 24th Annual Charity Golf Tournament – thank you to our friends in the building trades for your continued support!

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Dakota HalfpennyUnited We Lead

A new volunteer program is helping HSLM respond to unprecedented community needs

by Dakota Halfpenny on May 1, 2024 Comments Off on A new volunteer program is helping HSLM respond to unprecedented community needs
CSRF recipient, Humane Society of London and Middlesex volunteer holding dog on leash outside

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“Poverty creates a tremendous amount of stress on families, and pets do add extra costs for families who are already struggling to pay their essential bills.”

Meghan Cocurullo
Director of fund development

It’s one of the most heartbreaking decisions any pet owner could have to make.

But for people unable to continue caring for their animal amid rising costs or life changes, surrendering their furry friend to a shelter may seem like the only option.

For those who bring their pet to Humane Society of London and Middlesex (HSLM), there is some comfort knowing members of a dedicated team of more than 300 animal-loving volunteers will provide cuddles and love until a new family comes along.

HSLM says its amazing volunteers are the “heart of the organization.” The agency relies on people who donate their time to ensure animals in care have the best experience possible.

CSRF recipient, Humane Society of London and Middlesex volunteer petting cat inside cage

“They spend the time with a nervous cat, they take the dogs for walks. They just bring us to the next level of care that we pride ourselves for giving,” said Meghan Cocurullo, director of fund development.

In fact, they do such an incredible job helping wherever needed, that it wasn’t until the pandemic —  when non-employees were sent home and staff scrambled to take care of the 200 animals on site — that it became clear how lost the agency would be without its volunteers. What’s more, staff realized they needed a new structure to fill some big gaps, and to provide better support and training for the hundreds of people willing to donate their time.

Now, with federal pandemic-recovery funding allocated by United Way Elgin Middlesex, the 124-year-old agency has hired Kendra Forrest, its first volunteer program manager, to develop a recruitment, training and support program for the more than 300 volunteers who greatly outnumber the staff of 31.

CSRF recipient, Humane Society of London and Middlesex volunteer holding cat

“The dedication and hard work of its volunteers are awe-inspiring and serve as a reminder of the power of caring for those who cannot speak for themselves,” said Forrest. “This is an organization driven by passionate individuals who are capable of achieving amazing things.”

Funding is an investment in hundreds of people

It is good timing for the funding, as the agency prepares to move into a much larger animal “campus,” with more room for pets as well as a kennel, an education centre and a cafe on site.

The funding to create a new volunteer program is actually an investment in hundreds of people. That’s because through the new program, HSLM will recruit volunteers in a targeted way, inviting people to share specific areas of expertise and fill specific roles based on their interests and skills.

While the shelter and adoption agency will continue to rely on a large pool of people willing to come in to walk dogs or “socialize” (play with) cats, the organization will also bring in people with expertise in certain areas. For example, retired teachers may be interested in helping out at the pet education centre, while people with banking experience may want to offer their skills to help with bookkeeping.

HSLM is one of 26 organizations United Way Elgin Middlesex allocated to receive funding from the Government of Canada’s Community Services Recovery Fund to address needs that have emerged or increased since the start of COVID-19.

CSRF recipient, Humane Society of London and Middlesex volunteer outside with cute Shepperd puppy

‘Right when we need it most’

Animal adoptions were up during the pandemic when COVID-19 restrictions meant people were home a lot more than usual.

Then, in the months after the pandemic — amid a surge of heartbroken pet owners surrendering furry friends they could no longer care for —  HSLM started its first waitlist ever.

Since then, as rising costs continue to force people to make impossible choices, including whether they can afford to keep feeding their dog or cat, that list has continued to grow, with 127 pets on it last month.

“Poverty creates a tremendous amount of stress on families, and pets do add extra costs for families who are already struggling to pay their essential bills,” said Cocurullo.

“Now more than ever, people are facing such hardships. We’re hearing from people who are saying they can’t afford to feed their kids, let alone their pet.”

In addition to around 200 animals in the shelter, HSLM has 35 pets in volunteer foster homes, and supports more than 400 animals through its volunteer-run pet food bank called No Empty Bowls for families facing short-term financial difficulties.

CSRF recipient, Humane Society of London and Middlesex volunteer sitting on floor inside HSLM facility

“The demand on our services has never been higher, and we can’t fund more staff members to be able to fulfill that,” said Cocurullo.

“That’s why this is such a game changer for us.”

See the full list of funded projects and for more information about the Community Services Recovery Fund.

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Dakota HalfpennyA new volunteer program is helping HSLM respond to unprecedented community needs

ChangeMakers Awards celebrate dedicated volunteers

by Dakota Halfpenny on April 24, 2024 Comments Off on ChangeMakers Awards celebrate dedicated volunteers
2023 ChangeMaker Award winners group photo

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“Everywhere I have gone in my life and my career, I’ve asked myself, how do I effect change? How do we tackle community issues together? How can each of us make this a better place for everybody?”

Mark Egbedeyi-Emmanuel
General Manager, EPCOR
United Way 2023 Community Campaign chair

It’s been a year chock-full of inspirational volunteers: the community mobilizers, Campaign champions and caring citizens who take action, inspire their colleagues, and make a difference where we live and work.

And on April 23, United Way and presenting sponsor Scotiabank honoured these ChangeMakers – and the success of the 2023-2024 Campaign – in a celebration of people who lend their time and talents to make good things happen locally.

The event honoured 15 individuals and 3 workplace teams who went above and beyond in 2023.

2023 Community Campaign Chair Mark Egbedyi-Emmanuel, general manager of natural gas at EPCOR based in Aylmer, inspired the community to think big, “Everywhere I have gone in my life and my career, I’ve asked myself, how do I effect change? How do we tackle community issues together? How can each of us make this a better place for everybody?”

“These things don’t happen by themselves. They happen with people being involved.”

Kelly Ziegner, United Way president and CEO, described volunteers as “the lifeblood of this region … people who tirelessly, boldly, enthusiastically, give your time and energy because you believe this is a community where everyone deserves a fair shot at a good life.”

The United Way 2023 Campaign wrapped up March 31, 2024. In total, donor generosity will translate this year to $4.5 million invested in 43 vital local programs. The official 2024 Campaign launch, together with United Way’s annual 3M Harvest Lunch is scheduled to take place in St. Thomas on Sept. 18 at Elgin County Railway Museum and in London on Sept. 25 at Coven Garden Market.

Meet the 2023 United Way ChangeMakers

These community champions stepped up in difficult times to support those in need. Using their energy, passion and commitment to improve lives locally, each winner helped bring opportunity and hope to local people this year.

Award presented by Scotiabank.
Pictured left to right: Kelly Ziegner, President & CEO,
United Way Elgin Middlesex, Jeff Macoun, Canada Life
and Chris Turino, Scotiabank.

Lifetime Achievement
Jeff Macoun, Canada Life

From his youth, Jeff has been inspired to help find solutions, to collaborate and build community. He is driven by the ultimate goal to unite people, ideas and resources to create lasting change in people’s lives. He has helped guide and serve our local community by leading many initiatives which positively influence London’s social and economic landscape. Our community has been incredibly fortunate that his tremendous energy and intellect have been put to work right here in our own neighbourhoods throughout his career. 

Jeff worked his way up through the ranks at London Life, providing leadership through much change and growth in the industry and the company, through many economic and social changes, finally leading Canada Life as President and C.O.O. The hallmark throughout Jeff’s leadership has been a culture of active caring, for employees and for community.  

Alongside this successful and demanding career, Jeff has always made time for the things that are truly important: his wonderful family and his local community. As well as serving as Board Member and Board Chair of St Joseph’s Health Care Foundation,  Honorary Chair of the Capital Campaign at St. Joseph’s, he has been longtime Board Member, London Chamber of Commerce, including serving as President, member of the YMCA of Southwestern Ontario Board of Directors and Chair of the Y Capital Campaign. Jeff is currently the Chair of the Community Fundraising Team for the Health & Homelessness Movement for Change, where he is rallying Londoners to unite and face the housing challenge together 

And of course, Jeff served several years as a United Way volunteer at London Life, then on Cabinet and then serving as our Campaign Chair in 2007. Within Canada Life, he empowers employees to take on key volunteer roles that develop their skills and grow their passion for community. Every year, Jeff makes the time to provide personal leadership for the Canada Life United Way campaign. He speaks, sends emails and shares stories, he encourages all his colleagues to participate, and leads by example.

Because of his great passion for his work and for his community, Jeff has been the deserving recipient of many awards including: The Ivey Award for Excellence, YMCA William Bowman Award,  Hospital Leaders and Volunteer Award, from St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation, induction into the London and District Business Hall of Fame, the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award, and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, for his outstanding and exemplary contributions to his community. We are delighted to add the ChangeMaker Lifetime Achievement Award to his well-deserved collection. 

Top Campaign Team – Small
EPCOR

This small and mighty team puts forward a huge amount of passion and creativity to rally their workplace of 17 employees toward achieving great results. From cupcake draws, candy jar guessing, raffles, and their signature annual community BBQ, this team’s contagious enthusiasm has spread within their organization, with their neighbours in Aylmer and throughout the broader community as well. EPCOR’s 2023 campaign was its largest yet – almost four times what it was since coming on board five years ago. 

Top Campaign Team – Medium
Child and Parent Resource Institute

The Child and Parent Resource Institute absolutely rocked their United Way Campaign this year with a whopping 66% increase from last year! From chess games to cupcakes sales to appreciation grams, participation in special events and money raised skyrocketed with a more than 1100% increase! The Child and Parent Resource Institute also had an increase in employee giving of 46%, a 63% increase in number of donors and saw their highest participation rate since 2018. The hard work and dedication the team put into their 2023 Campaign serves as an inspiration to all, and they proved that nothing could stop them in their commitment to their community.

Top Campaign Team – Large
General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada

This dynamic team pulled out all the stops during this year’s campaign! Together, they provided so many opportunities for their employees to support their community that their Development Officer was on a first name basis with Teddy and the rest of their security staff. Adopting an ALL-IN mindset, they brought back the fun of Family Day and London Majors Baseball, shared their local love at 3M Harvest Lunch and the TD StairClimb, helped everyone get involved through numerous other events, fundraisers, and volunteer opportunities like Best First Day and Day of Caring… and set the foundation for real conversations at Leadership, WSBM, and New Hire Meetings; building on the decades long strength of a culture for United Way.

Couldn’t attend, photo was taken at a later date.

Outstanding Workplace Champion – Small
Nell Lealess & Jordan Chase, Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Nell and Jordan brought boundless energy to the CFIA GCWCC campaign. They kicked off the campaign with an amazing team breakfast, which was donated and cooked by volunteers. They ran numerous special events which included a football fantasy league, spring-roll day, wine survivor, and weekly coffee days for United WayTheir 2023 campaign saw a 45% increase over last year and is CFIA’s highest total since 2018.

Outstanding Workplace Champion – Medium
Michelle Longdon & Rachel Noble, Canada Revenue Agency

This creative duo stepped up this year for the CRA GCWCC campaign. They held mock ‘telethons’ throughout the campaign to engage employees in a fun and interactive way (bow ties and all)They raised awareness through impact speakers and trivia games, encouraged donations and had lots of fun along the wayThey also brought back local events to the London office, which included a fall fair, silent auction and coffee sales. Their efforts resulted in a 30% increase in employee giving over last year and the highest it’s been in more than 10 years.

Outstanding Workplace Champion – Large
Sara DeCandido, London Health Sciences Centre

Sara exemplifies unwavering dedication and relentless advocacy in her partnership with United Way and the campaign at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC). Fearlessly championing the cause, she underscores the vital importance of community care. Her impassioned efforts rallied employees and nurtured a spirit of generosity. Under Sara’s leadership, participation surged by an impressive 19.5%, with a 2% increase in giving. At Sara’s initiative, the StairClimb event took place on site at both LHSC locations, allowing shift-workers and other staff to be included and feel included in this fun fundraiser. Sara’s tireless advocacy leaves an unforgettable mark on everyone in her orbit.

Rookie of the Year 
Sara Kelly, Ivey Business School, Western University

Sara was an exemplary champion – always the first to engage when Champion emails were sent out and enthusiastic about getting the word out quickly about whatever was happening on and off campus. This included rotating “why I give” stories in the School’s bi-weekly email newsletter. As a first-time Champion, Sara engaged colleagues Kelly Hancock (cabinet member) and Leadership Chairs, Kim Miller and Darren Meister to encourage participation at the 3M Harvest Lunch and TD StairClimb. She used her fundraising background and passion for community to motivate and inspire her colleagues throughout the campaign. 

Couldn’t attend, photo will be taken at a later date.

DoGooder Award,
Paul MacGregor, AB Lucas Secondary School, Thames Valley District School Board

Paul had one goal this year: show everyone that A B Lucas Secondary School could move mountains! And wow did they ever! They raised $11,349 for their community this year; that’s a 289% increase over last year, making them the top fundraising school in Elgin and Middlesex Counties. But Paul didn’t stop at inspiring his own school. He used the TVDSB Campaign Kick-Off to host a friendly competition with mascots at ten other schools. In doing so, Paul’s team of DoGooders set the bar, showing what was possible when everyone worked together; challenging other schools to try something new and creating a school culture where everyone played a part in creating a community where everyone had a fair shot at a good life. 

DoGooder Award,
Erika Hill, Lori Johnson, Angelica Lucaci, Karen VanKerkoerle, Western Geography StairClimb Team

Although this team has changed a bit over the years, this core group of individuals has been an enthusiastic fixture of the StairClimb for the past 12 years (including through COVID). Their cumulative StairClimb fundraising is just shy of $20,000, and they consistently find themselves near the top of each year’s overall leaderboard and usually first or second among Western’s teams. United Way appreciates how they show up and step up – usually with themed outfits and tireless good humour. Through their fundraising efforts, they have created awareness, and motivated donors, both on- and off-campus.

DoGooder Award 
Ryan Pierce, TD Bank

Ryan assumed the crucial role of TD Bank United Way Elgin Middlesex sponsor and ignited employee participation across various departments while providing unwavering support for the TD sponsored employee. Through innovative event planning, he introduced initiatives that significantly elevated fundraising endeavours. These included his meticulous coordination of logistics at TD StairClimb, where he also volunteered for the entire day and helped TD surpassed its fundraising goal. Ryan also took on two volunteer roles with United Way, as a member of the Agency Partnerships and Investments Committee and the Allocations volunteer team, where he helped assess applications for community grants. Ryan’s enthusiasm and reliability have made him an asset throughout the community. 

DoGooder Award
Brian Carey

Brian has made a career, and a post-retirement career, of doing good – specifically volunteering his photographic skills. His love for photography started when his grandfather asked Brian to take photos of their 60th wedding anniversary. He said he had to run out and buy his first camera for the event: a Kodak Brownie Starflash! Today his digital images enrich our community. Many of you in the room will recognize him as he is the friendly volunteer face behind the camera lens at many United Way events. Brian first started volunteering at United Way in 2008, the year he was a sponsored employee from the CRA. Amazingly, he has returned every year since! He volunteers for the Royal Canadian Legion Poppy campaign every October and November and he also volunteers at the Grand Theatre throughout the year, as well as helping friends when they ask for help at their eventsWhen an injury left Brian unable to continue with his love of playing hockey, he traded in his skate for volunteer time. Luckily his wife Kathy is willing to share Brian with the community and it is our pleasure to put him on the other side of the camera and invite him up to accept his award! 

Innovator Award 
Ezra Nicholson, Central Elgin Collegiate Institute, Thames Valley District School Board

When Ezra told us that his class had an idea to engage CECI in a new way, we never could have imagined what would come next! Ezra and the students in his Leadership class had put together a plan to bring the TD StairClimb energy to their school. In the process, not only did they create a high energy event that engaged students at Central Elgin Collegiate Institute in a new way, but they redefined what StairClimb could be by incorporating other teen-inspired aspects like a silent disco, snow cone and snack bar, costumes, and a fun track that led students through the halls, creating an unignorable call for others to support their community. They even leveraged their connections with elementary schools to invite them to be a part of the fun. At the end of the day, they raised almost $2,000 for their community, inspired hundreds of students, and created a best practice event for schools that might not otherwise be able to participate in our biggest annual fundraiser.

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Dakota HalfpennyChangeMakers Awards celebrate dedicated volunteers

Strengthening Indigenous communities to keep children with their families

by Dakota Halfpenny on April 10, 2024 Comments Off on Strengthening Indigenous communities to keep children with their families
Candice Snake, Manager of Mnaasged Children’s Circle of Care and Youth Services Supervisor Sovannaroth Yik

Red intro quotation mark

This project is breaking barriers. It will create a ripple effect that will keep growing long beyond the funding period and help equip the communities to raise themselves up.”

Candice Snake
Manager of Mnaasged Children’s Circle of Care

‘This project is breaking barriers’

An Indigenous child wellbeing organization has launched a program to strengthen family unity, with the goal of creating a positive “ripple effect” for generations to come.

The initiative is part of Mnaasged Child and Family Services’ ongoing work to keep Indigenous children — who now account for over half the kids in Canada’s foster homes — with their families in their home communities.

With federal pandemic-recovery funding allocated by United Way Elgin Middlesex, Mnaasged has hired three new specialized counselors and started providing frontline staff with culturally relevant training in the areas of mental health, addictions, life skills and healing from violence.

“This project is breaking barriers,” said Candice Snake, Manager of Mnaasged Children’s Circle of Care. ”It will create a ripple effect that will keep growing long beyond the funding period and help equip the communities to raise themselves up.”

Mnaasged — whose name in English translates to “beautiful rays of the rising sun, shedding light on the future – our children” — aims to help families heal, break the cycle of children being removed from homes, and restore First Nations jurisdiction over their own child and family services.

Project will give people the tools to help with healing

Based in Munsee Delaware First Nation, about 45 kilometres southwest of London, Mnaasged serves and supports six First Nation communities in the region. For nearly 20 years it has been working to eliminate the continued overrepresentation of Indigenous children in foster care through family counseling, advocacy and children and youth programming.

Despite making up roughly seven per cent of Canada’s youth population, Indigenous children account for 52 per cent of kids in private foster care homes, a reality tied to historical traumas caused by the policies such as Canada’s residential school system and the Sixties Scoop.

“As communities, we have shared trauma that has resulted from oppressive colonial policies like residential schools and the Sixties scoop. As individuals, those policies have led to so many personal experiences with addiction, poverty, mental health and violence that are linked to family breakdown within our communities,” said Snake.

Candice Snake, Manager of Mnaasged Children’s Circle of Care

“This project will address those issues and give people a safe space to learn new ways to cope.

“It will strengthen individuals and families.”

The new team includes a Community Engagement Worker, a Mental Health Support Worker, and an Elder, who will support Mnaasged’s work with Indigenous communities, including Aamjiwnaang First Nation, Caldwell First Nation, Eelünaapéewi Lahkéewiit, Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation, Munsee-Delaware Nation, and Oneida Nation of the Thames.

Affirming First Nations’ inherent right to be responsible for children

First Nations have always maintained their inherent right to have responsibility over their own children.

This year, the Supreme Court endorsed Canada’s Act respecting First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children, youth, and their families, affirming Indigenous peoples’ right of self-government, which includes jurisdiction in relation to child and family services and acknowledges the significance of reuniting Indigenous kids with their communities.

Mnaasged is expected to achieve full agency status as a Children’s Aid Society in the next year.

One of 26 groups that United Way Elgin Middlesex allocated to receive funding from the Government of Canada’s Community Services Recovery Fund to address needs that have emerged or increased since the start of COVID-19, Mnaasged runs a foster care service, working with parents to ensure Indigenous kids in care have access to support and resources from their home communities.

The pandemic recovery funding has enabled it to “directly address the needs of the youth, adults and parents in the six communities,” said Youth Services Supervisor Sovannaroth Yik.

“Each community has unique trauma, and also unique strengths,” said Yik. “We want to collaborate with the communities and ensure we have a meaningful impact.”

Pandemic forced Mnaasged to shift services to respond to emergent needs

As with many family-serving agencies across the country, Mnaasged’s workload changed and grew during pandemic lockdowns.

Youth Services Supervisor Sovannaroth Yik

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Mnaasged is still being felt today,” said Snake. “We lost Elders in our communities — and that grief is compounded by the fact that when an Elder dies, we also lose traditional knowledge.”

In addition, First Nations faced new challenges related to pandemic lockdowns.

“COVID put a spotlight on how issues such as poverty and compounded grief are impacting families and leading to family breakdown — especially in crisis.”

But it also shone a light on the spirit of unity and hope in the communities. Day after day, community members from the six First Nations would come out to help prepare, pack and deliver donated food to those in need and check in on families who were struggling, Snake said.

As pandemic restrictions were lifted, Mnaasged remained determined to find a way to provide high-quality, effective support and training to engage community members.

“When I saw the opportunity for this funding, I thought we could use this right away,” Snake said.

“It will make a difference.”

See the full list of funded projects and for more information about the Community Services Recovery Fund.

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Dakota HalfpennyStrengthening Indigenous communities to keep children with their families

Chinese Canadian group launches Seniors in Cyberspace

by Dakota Halfpenny on March 4, 2024 Comments Off on Chinese Canadian group launches Seniors in Cyberspace
Group activity at London’s Chinese Canadian National Council

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For those who could join, it was great. But the problem was, many people couldn’t join. They didn’t know how to access the programs using the Internet, and they didn’t have anybody to help.

Andy Ho
Chinese Canadian National Council, president

Hearts are full, smiles are big and the hall is positively buzzing with Mandarin, Cantonese and English conversation on Seniors’ Day at London’s Chinese Cultural Centre.

Twice monthly, dozens of seniors in their 70s, 80s and 90s, gather at the centre, where they share a meal and participate in group exercises and other activities organized by the Chinese Canadian National Council – London Chapter (CCNC).

The seniors are among the council’s most vibrant members, but also its most vulnerable. And for many, Seniors Day is their only opportunity to connect with familiar faces outside their homes.

So when everything came to a halt during the pandemic, CCNC volunteers quickly moved the organization’s most popular programs online, to give members remote access to the community.

“For those who could join, it was great. But the problem was, many people couldn’t join,” said president Andy Ho. “They didn’t know how to access the programs using the Internet, and they didn’t have anybody to help.

“They were alone and very isolated.”

Agency bringing in youth volunteers

To ensure its most vulnerable members are never left behind again, the agency has launched Empowering Seniors in Cyberspace, using federal pandemic-recovery funding allocated by United Way Elgin Middlesex.

The funding has allowed CCNC to hire a software programmer, purchase 20 computer tablets and develop a seniors’ technology training program that teen volunteers from area high schools will use to help elder members learn how to access and participate in programs remotely if needed.

“This project will make sure that if anything else ever happens to put people in a situation where they cannot leave their home, our seniors will be prepared.They will be able to stay connected,” said Ho.”And we know being connected is important to physical and mental wellness.”

Founded in 1980 by a group of Chinese Londoners to encourage full and equal participation in Canadian society, the CCNC is one of 26 groups that United Way Elgin Middlesex allocated to receive funding from the Government of Canada’s Community Services Recovery Fund to address needs that have emerged or increased since the start of COVID-19.

President Andy Ho outside building

“When we heard about the fund, we thought it was an opportunity to help our seniors improve their ability to communicate using modern technology,” said Ho. “We want to give them confidence. The world is moving ahead fast and we don’t want the seniors to be left behind.”

The volunteer-run charity has only two paid staff, both part-time, and focuses on social services and reducing barriers for Chinese Londoners. While CCNC serves children, families and individuals of all ages, this project is focused on senior citizens because they were isolated during the pandemic, said Ho.

Typically, senior programming draws about 50 people, twice a month to socialize and take part in the group activities that include Tai Chi, exercise, music appreciation club, community cooking, guest speakers, painting and crafts. Many also enjoy gardening vegetables at the CCNC’s garden centre out back, which donates fresh produce to the London Food Bank.

Volunteer drivers pick up people who don’t have transportation in the morning, and take them home after.

“Our seniors depend on us,” said Kun-Tou Pao, vice president. “We know some people get up at 5 a.m. those mornings, because they are so excited.”

Project will help seniors avoid scams

Some were widowed during the pandemic, Pao said.

“We are concerned for them. We want to make sure they are not alone and isolated in the future if they cannot leave their home,” he said.

Pao, vice president, CCNC

During the pandemic, volunteers set out to call the most senior members and even knock on their doors, taking safety measures, to ensure people were well and to tell them about the Zoom programs.

What they learned was that many older members either did not know how to use the necessary technology, or had limited access – in some cases because they or their adult children were concerned about senior scams.

That’s why the training program also includes information on how to use and navigate the Internet safely and prevent becoming a victim of cybercrime.

“By helping our seniors get confident with modern technology, we can expand our scope of service and achieve our goal to help Chinese Canadians settle, integrate and contribute to the local community,” said Pao. He said the organization plans to share the program with other groups that serve seniors.

“This is not just for Chinese Canadians. It can help others too,” he said.

Group activity at London’s Chinese Canadian National Council

See the full list of funded projects and for more information about the Community Services Recovery Fund.

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Dakota HalfpennyChinese Canadian group launches Seniors in Cyberspace