With 100% local gratitude this holiday season

The #LoveLove Letter, United Way Elgin Middlesex

local news with impact

Kelly Ziegner, President & CEO United Way Elgin Middlesex

What do the holidays mean to you? 

It’s a question we asked local Ojibway artist Michael Cywink as the first snow started falling and we started thinking about celebrations with family and friends, just around the corner.

As a 100% local non-profit organization, United Way shows our local love by supporting hometown suppliers. This year, we commissioned Michael to create a meaningful piece of digital art to share with you in celebration of winter and the holiday season.

Here’s what the holidays mean to him. “Everything changed when my sister gave birth to my nieces,” Michael says. “I get more excited to see them open their presents than I do opening my own. The holidays are all about family and the positive feelings knowing we’ll be able to get together this year. What brings me joy? Family for sure.” 

Michael’s joy jumps off the page. He describes his piece as something a bit personal and something everybody can connect to. 

The turtle shell and warm colours represent home. “Home can be anything, it’s not just a building,” he explains. “Home is where you feel safe, loved, appreciated, respected. It can be how you feel with someone. The beautiful thing is, we’re not trees, our roots aren’t planted. You can find that place for yourself.”

The eagle feathers represent value at a time of year that can be a financial strain for so many. “One of the things I value more than anything is an eagle feather my brother gave me,” he says. “I use it with my own smudging and ceremonial stuff I do with Indigenous youth throughout the London area. It has passed through so many hands, powerful in the healing work it’s done so far. It has no monetary value whatsoever but it’s so valuable to me.” Watch this short video to hear more from Michael.  

A sense of belonging. A safe home. Simple gestures of kindness and gratitude. Michael’s artistic expression mirrors perfectly my holiday wishes for you and for our community. As we look toward 2022, I look forward to continuing the good things we are doing together to make those wishes come true.

On behalf of everyone at United Way, here’s to a safe and joyful holiday season and a bright new year.

With gratitude,

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From the artist – This holiday edition of the #LocalLove Letter gave us an opportunity to partner with local Indigenous artist Michael CywinkMichael’s take on winter, holidays and family has us thinking about our own traditions and the new memories we’ll make this year. Learn more from Michael about his artistic vision for the piece.

211 is here for you – We get it, the holidays aren’t a happy time for everyone. Along with the joys of the season, there can be added pressures of higher utility bills, keeping enough food on the table, and finding work. If you need help for you or a loved one, call 2-1-1 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.

Please support local holiday drives

Many social service agencies across our region are putting out the call for toys, books, food and presents.
Why not consider a gift that gives? Here are just a few.

Anova’s Festive Wishlist Check out Anova’s most recent Needed Items Listor shop their oh-so-handy Amazon Wish ListYour thoughtful donation, like a pair of cozy slippers or a gift card for a good book or the latest tunes, will be so appreciated by women and children living in a shelter who can’t be home for the holidays. Donations accepted until Dec. 18. 

Christmas Care St Thomas https://christmascarestthomas.com/ 
This traditional toy and food drive has supported more than 4,000 families since 1980. Donate new toys, gift cards and food at Elgin Centre, 417 Wellington St. or make a donation on the website. No clothing donations please.

Atlohsa Gifts – Looking for gifts that make a difference? Check out Atlohsa’s Holiday Gift Guide

Aylmer Christmas Care Food Hamper Program and Toy Drive Drop off non-perishable food items and toys at any of these locationsHills Pharmacy, Campbell’s Office Pro, Aylmer Valu-Mart, Meridian Credit Union, Port Burwell Post Office, Port Burwell Legion and Aylmer Food Bank – The Corner Cupboard. For more information, call 519-773-5548 

Youth Opportunities Unlimited The holidays are a difficult time for many, but for kids who are street-involved and don’t have a stable family to go home to, it’s especially tough. You can make their day a little brighter by dropping off bus tickets, gift cards, movie passes, hygiene kits, houseware items and new winter clothing at the Youth Action Centre, 332 Richmond St., London Mon-Fri 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. For more info, contact Lynne lynnew@you.ca 519-432-1112 x103