ChangeMakers Awards celebrate dedicated volunteers

2022 ChangeMaker Award winners group photo

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“It’s so fitting that a heart and hand are central to United Way’s identity because that’s also how I visualize all of our volunteers – as big-hearted people who are moved to extend help wherever and whenever it is needed.”

Alyson Paisley
VP, Direct Distribution, Intact Financial Corporation
United Way 2022 Community Campaign chair

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

And on May 25, United Way and presenting sponsor Scotiabank honoured these ChangeMakers – and the success of the 2022-2023 Community Campaign – in a celebration of people who lend their time and talents to make good things happen locally.

“It’s so fitting that a heart and hand are central to United Way’s identity because that’s also how I visualize all of our volunteers – as big-hearted people who are moved to extend help wherever and whenever it is needed,” said outgoing Campaign chair Alyson Paisley, who also gave shout-out to supportive volunteers’ families and workplaces.

“Folks in this room collectively gave thousands of hours of their time and expertise,” Paisley told the crowd of approximately 130 people.  “The common element through each of our diverse experiences is this: We care for people who live in this community.”

The event honoured 11 individuals and workplaces who went above and beyond in 2022.

They include Melissa MacLean, a first-time workplace Champion at IG Wealth Management who motivated her colleagues to increase their giving by 84 per cent; and Rosie White of Compass Canada, whose nominators noted her kindness towards everyone she met at the till of LHSC’s cafeteria.

Paisley, who is vice-president of direct distribution at Intact Financial Services, commended the generous volunteers, donors and community partners who inspired her throughout her year as Campaign chair with their “daily reminders of the power of community.”

She introduced the new United Way 2023 Community Campaign cabinet and Mark Egbedeyi-Emmanuel as 2023 Community Campaign chair.

Egbedeyi-Emmanuel is general manager of natural gas at EPCOR based in Aylmer and is the first Community Campaign chair from Elgin County since United Ways in London Middlesex and Elgin St. Thomas unified to become United Way Elgin Middlesex in 2016.

“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?”  Egbedeyi-Emmanuel said.

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

He added, “I have also been very fortunate to be working for an organization that believes in and supports their employees’ involvement within the community.”

Joan Fernandez, the Lifetime Achievement award-winner who has volunteered through her employer for more than two decades, noted the importance of finding purpose and meaning in giving to others. “How much of a difference kindness can make,” she said.

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 2022 Community Campaign wrapped up March 31, 2023.  In total, donor generosity will translate this year to $6 million disbursed in grants and other investments more than 50 projects and programs at 43 local service agencies to facilitate their work in reducing and preventing poverty.

The official 2023 Community Campaign launch, together with United Way’s annual 3M Harvest Lunch is scheduled to take place in London on Sept.19 at RBC Place (London’s convention centre downtown, on York Street) and in St. Thomas on Sept. 21 at Horton Street Farmers’ Market.

Meet the 2022 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.

Top Campaign Team – Small
This campaign team aimed to increase every aspect of giving in their small workplace. In the process, their cumulative lifetime giving topped $1 million – a milestone they marked with special t-shirts for all employees.
The head of Human Resources in Canada, Robin Flax, was on hand to accept the award on behalf of all Amway Canada employees. A dedicated philanthropy committee helped guide their colleagues to increase their participation and giving. Workplace donations grew by 156 per cent, including an additional $10,000 corporate gift from Amway Canada Corporation.

Top Campaign Team – Medium
Intact Financial Services
Intact’s campaign grew from strong to stronger, in a year where powerhouse duo Courtney Bleak and Ashley Henson, joined by 17 other volunteers and corporate leaders, were the sparkplugs of a dedicated and creative workplace campaign. The campaign included two virtual kick-offs with an impact speaker from London Cares Homeless Response, a virtual tour of agencies and participation in United Way’s TD StairClimb.

Incentives for one-time donations or payroll giving included draws for pro sports tickets, while pancake breakfasts and game days provided additional opportunities to give. Campaign Chair Alyson Paisley also secured sponsorship for last year’s United Way ChangeMakers Awards event, Share the Love 50/50 and matching funds for the new High-Five program. Together, employee and corporate giving increased by more than 50 per cent.

Top Campaign Team – Large
Sifton Properties Ltd and Sifton Family Foundation
Sifton entered the campaign with a goal of $100,000 to align with their 100th anniversary. The team included a new workplace Champion, the Sifton Family Foundation’s new executive director, 18 ambassadors, a supportive corporate leadership team across multiple locations and regions, and Campaign cabinet member Jordan Millward.

This top team engaged employees in a range of giving opportunities – with donations generously matched by the Sifton Family Foundation – and participated in Best First Day school supplies drive, United Way’s virtual tour of agencies and the United Way TD StairClimb.

All told, this was the largest and most successful campaign in their long history with United Way, with increased leadership giving, greater participation and total donations well in excess of their goal.

Outstanding Workplace Champion – Small
Melissa MacLean, IG Wealth Management
Melissa was a new Champion who set herself a lofty goal to double last year’s total. She was especially diligent in overcoming some unavoidable obstacles before giving it her all in a superb presentation to staff. With her guidance and encouragement, employee participation, per-person giving and total giving all saw double-digit increases.

Melissa’s enthusiasm is contagious, and we’re thrilled she plans to return as Champion again this year.

Outstanding Workplace Champion – Medium
Vivian Iron, Siskinds LLP

Leanne Kuchynski (pictured here), received the award on behalf of Vivian, who was unable to attend the event. With Vivan’s enthusiasm, the Siskinds campaign soared to new heights.  A workplace Champion since 2018, she motivated more of her colleagues to give, and called on existing donors to give more.

They responded in kind, by participating in the TD Stairclimb and by winning the Lawyers’ Leadership Challenge for most dollars raised, for the eighth consecutive year.

Outstanding Workplace Champion – Large
Diane Piedade, 3M Canada

In a year where most office staff still worked from home, reducing some opportunities to connect in person, Diane rose to the challenge with creative ways to increase giving. A nine-year volunteer with United Way, Diane brought back United Way days at the employee store and added two fill-a-bag events at the Oxford Plant. She organized a team for TD StairClimb and led by example as the event’s top fundraiser.

Diane was the company’s main driver behind the 3M Harvest Lunch & United Way Campaign Launch and advocated for an impact speaker at the 3M TownHall, providing an opportunity to reach staff who were at home.

Rookie of the Year 
Sakshi Anand, Voyago
Sakshi used innovative ways to engage with employees and inspire community spirit across several regions where Voyago serves. The transportation company’s three-month campaign for employees included weekly newsletters, a 50/50 draw and United Way’s virtual tour.

Sakshi’s passion to make a difference in our community included bringing Voyago on for the first time as a participant in TD Stairclimb. Staffers showed up to run, walk and wheel through Budweiser Gardens and, in the process,  became one of the top workplace contributors to the event.  Sakshi’s community vision also extended to raising money for holiday food bags and a product drive in London and the Greater Toronto Area.

DoGooder Award,
Rebecca Mills, Medway High School
Rebecca is the lead for staff and students who participated in the TD StairClimb.

Rebecca cultivated a culture of giving at the school – a culture so strong that students and their parents were determined to participate in the StairClimb even when fog forced the cancellation of their bus routes. Families drove students to the school so that they could still make their way to downtown London for the event.

Their generosity matched their high-energy school spirit, as they won the 2022 trophy as top secondary school fundraising team.

DoGooder Award,
Rosie White, Compass Canada
Rosie is an incredible ambassador, instrumental in supporting LHSC’s 2022 United Way Campaign even though she was not an official Champion. Rosie, an employee of Compass Canada working at LHSC, believes we all can give back in all that we do, as she asks for donations at her till and shares and listens to stories of all who meet her.

Rosie’s warmth and positivity are notable. During COVID restrictions, Rosie was one of the only faces some people saw outside the clinical team. Once you have chatted with Rosie, there is no way to walk away without a smile on your face and coffee in hand – having made your donation and ready for the day’s next challenge.

Innovator Award 
London Cares Homeless Response Services, virtual tour
Helped us create the most impactful Virtual Tour experience to date, opening their hearts and knowledge to more than 1,600 viewers in London and across Elgin and Middlesex counties. The tour helped show donors and potential donors the real-world impact of their donations.

Nevin became a personal face and voice to viewers who heard and saw his story; while Anne and Season helped show how people on the front lines are providing hope for neighbours in need. Collectively, their from-the-heart stories showed viewers the collaborative, innovative work happening at London Cares that helps support some of our community’s most vulnerable people.

Lifetime Achievement
Joan Fernandez
A true United Way ambassador and community-builder, Joan has been the United Way Champion at accounting firm EY for more than a decade, and a donor for more than 20 years.

She has played an integral role in leading a team of workplace volunteers and inspiring her colleagues towards making a difference for the community. As a result, the EY campaign more than doubled the numbers it had a decade ago.

Joan helped the organization navigate seamlessly to a national campaign and national giving tool.

Joan is passionate about “living a purposeful life filled with positivity and empowerment and to help others do the same.” She has a Facebook group dedicated to sharing this philosophy with others, including volunteering her time through workshops and guest speaker sessions.

Joan is a shining star and her energy is contagious everywhere she goes.