The role asks for four months, countless campaign tasks, long hours and a fervent dedication to fundraising. But for Deanna Bushelle, the biggest contribution is her story.
“Not many people want to say they grew up in poverty and had to use all these (United Way-funded) services. In my childhood years, my mom was a single mom, working to support me and my siblings. We lived in low-income housing in London and she was a recipient of some of the programs, too,” said Bushelle, Western’s 2015 United Way Sponsored Employee.
“My speech is my biggest fear because, now, I’m wearing my life on my sleeve for everybody to see. But I feel that it’s important to do.”
Last month, United Way of London & Middlesex announced its 2015-16 campaign goal of $9.1 million during the annual 3M Harvest Lunch at Budweiser Gardens. Western launched its campaign with a goal to raise $750,000.
Last year, Western’s campaign hit a major milestone as the 2014 fundraising total of $745,014 pushed the university’s cumulative total over the $10-million mark since organized campaigns began in the 1990s. Western has consistently been one of the largest single donors to the campaign and has now raised $10,216,722 over that time frame.
As a young adult, Bushelle – who works as a caretaker in the new Richard Ivey Building and has been at Western since 2004 – found herself in a similar situation as her mom. She became a mom at a young age and leaned on United Way-funded programming while raising her children, including the Early Years Program through the YMCA and the Stevenson Children’s Camp.
“My kids got some lasting memories at the camp. Otherwise, I might not have been able to send my kids to camp, being younger, and trying to work to support them,” she said.
When she started working at Western, things improved. She went back to school and got a certificate in project management. She’s currently in the Executive Office Administration Program at Fanshawe College, attending school part-time between the full-time jobs of university caretaking and being a mom to three daughters, the oldest of which is 17.
And today, she is at a point in her life where she is able to give back.
Bushelle explained, “I did a bit of homework and found out a lot of the services the United Way provided, the different agencies and the people they funded. I came to realize, ‘Wow, they actually provided me service in this program, and this program. There was a list of services I didn’t even know existed – and they were all funded by the United Way. I found out I had used more than one service, on more than one occasion, in my life. When I realized that, there was absolutely no question that I wanted to give back.”
She applied to be Western’s United Way sponsored employee. That was last year. Her application wasn’t successful on the first go, but she was encouraged to try again. She’s happy to have the opportunity this year, she said.
“I’ve been learning, every day, about what they do, experiencing different impact stories through a lot of the different agencies I haven’t used. I truly am excited about what they do and how they’re helping the community,” Bushelle noted, adding sharing her story is part of the process, too.
“I’m making myself vulnerable to everybody here at Western so they can see the impact. That’s my sacrifice and my contribution at the same time. I’m sharing my story so people can put a familiar face to (the impact) and see somebody who made it through and kept going. As a caretaker, I get to go all over campus. A lot of people will recognize me,” she continued.
Now, she’s helping Western raise $750,000 – a figure she is confident is attainable, if not something the community can surpass.
“I’m trying to get as many people on board and excited about it as I am. We can do way better than that. I feel determined and I want to be able to make it the best I can, because I want to be able to give back the best I can,” Bushelle said.
This year, Western’s United Way campaign has moved entirely online, saving the 8,000 paper pledge forms that would circulate campus this time of year.
Co-chairs for the campaign this year are Margaret Steele of the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Murray Bryant of Ivey Business School.