Staffer eyes challenges in United Way role

Paul Mayne // Western NewsSabrina Tingle, Administrative Coordinator (Finance and Facilities), is Western’s Sponsored Employee for the 2017 United Way of London & Middlesex campaign. You can follow her on Twitter at @sabrina_tingle.

Sabrina Tingle had hesitations about her new job, worried about the size of the challenges she would face. But today, she sees her latest role as a journey of growth.

“It was a big eye-opener, meeting someone for the first time, to understand and not judge what they’ve been through,” said Western’s Sponsored Employee for the 2017 United Way of London & Middlesex campaign. “From everyone I’ve had the opportunity to talk to so far, I have heard part of their story that pulled at my heart strings. But what gives me goosebumps, and brings tears to my eyes is the emotion attached from a positive perspective.”

An Administrative Coordinator (Finance & Facilities) at Western, Tingle is one month into a four-month secondment as the university’s point person for the United Way campaign.

Formerly known as the Loaned Representative Program, the United Way Sponsored Employee Program is a 16-week, full-time position that starts at the end of August and runs through the campaign’s close. Thirteen institutions from across the region – like 3M Canada, the City of London and McCormick Canada, among others – participate by seconding an employee or providing sponsorship. A seconded employee’s salary and benefits continue to be paid by their employer; day-to-day management is the responsibility of United Way.

Last year, Western raised $657,234 for United Way of London and Middlesex, bringing the university community’s total contribution since its first organized campaigns – dating back to the 1990s – to more than $11 million.

The United Way of London & Middlesex campaign fell short of its $9.17-million goal last year. Last week, the organization kicked off its campaign without a fundraising goal.

Tingle admitted stepping away from her main role on campus has been challenging.

“In the last few weeks, I have been busier than I normally am – which I didn’t think was possible. I’m busy, but in a different way,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was getting into at first, but I have learned so much in such a short period of time.”

Tingle spoke with Grace Kelly, the 2016 Sponsored Employee, to get a feel for what to expect. Kelly shared her personal and professional story, how much it opened her eyes to London and gave her a different perspective on life.

“You get put into a room with 13 strangers (other London sponsored employees) and in two weeks, you know more about them then anyone in your life,” Tingle said. “I’ve heard people share intimate stories. You listen and you’re like, ‘Holy cow.’”

On a personal level, the last couple of years have been emotionally trying for Tingle, but having had great colleagues and strong support at home, she is “doing great.” She is one of the lucky ones who has those supports readily available.

“In an instant, lives can change and, without some sort of the support, that change may lead them down a path of needing the services of United Way,” she said. “The philosophy about ‘meeting people where they’re at’ allows trust to be built and healing to begin. Whatever other opportunities there are, they may be more willing to hear about them, helping them get back on their feet sooner.”

One of Tingle’s early goals is to increase awareness of what United Way does. Until a couple years ago, she admitted United Way was simply an envelope that came across her desk sometime after students arrived back on campus. It would find its way underneath a pile of work files and other paper and, eventually, into the recycle bin.

She then thought of her young son and his classmates. What if one of them may be hungry because there wasn’t enough food at home? What if they were tired because they had to share a bed with a sibling that night? What if they were scared because they didn’t know where they were going after school that day?

It was that moment she decided if she could help change at least one thing for that one child, she was going to make a difference.

“I never knew how big of a reach United Way has in the community. I did not realize the idea of the Community Fund, the allocation process, the application process,” Tingle said. “The programs they support measurably improve people lives. It is forward changing.”

SHOW ME THE WAY

Western will announce its 2017 United Way of London & Middlesex campaign goal at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 20 at the University Community Centre Atrium. Last year, Western’s staff, faculty and alumni raised $657,234, bringing the university community’s total contribution since its first organized campaigns – dating back to the 1990s – to more than $11 million. Visit unitedway.uwo.ca for details.