“It was the best thing I’ve ever done.”
That was just one piece of advice Kathryn McAuley received from others as she weighed the possibility of taking on the role of Western’s Sponsored Employee for the 2019 United Way Elgin Middlesex campaign.
“Those words were used more than once,” the Stewardship and Compliance Officer (External) said. “I spoke to a couple colleagues who volunteered as sponsored employees in the past, and hearing their stories and experiences is what got me excited about the opportunity.”
McAuley begins her four-month secondment Monday as the university’s point person for the United Way campaign.
Fundraising has always been an important part of McAuley’s identity. She has volunteered with the Sunshine Foundation of Canada and been a director on the Hardie Family Foundation since 2004.
“I feel passionate about our community. Working with United Way provides an exceptional opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way,” said McAuley, who was first introduced to the United Way as a volunteer in 2013. “Taking on this role will give me the chance to learn more about what is happening in our community. Here, on campus, we don’t necessarily see the vulnerable and at-risk people living in London; we’re in our own little bubble. I want to do what I can to ensure help is there when our community members need it.”
United Way Elgin Middlesex funds 54 partner agencies and 92 programs focusing on moving people from poverty to possibility, helping kids be all they can be and building strong and healthy communities. Funds are primarily raised through the annual community campaign, which includes donations from company payrolls, corporations and individuals.
These funds are then allocated throughout the community, including the more than 4,000 households that access basic needs supports such as food, clothing and health vouchers; 10,000 children who take advantage of United Way free or low-cost summer camps and after-school programs; and 7,000 people who receive individual counselling or group workshops to address mental-health concerns.
With the $611,866 raised last year, the university has now contributed more than $7 million to the overall effort in the last nine years alone. The university has consistently been one of the largest single donors to the campaign, and the largest employee-only donor, to the overall.
With so many good causes and charities seeking limited resources in the community, McAuley understands the importance of every dollar raised in London. She is confident Western will once again step up to the plate.
“The Western community will come through. Not only will we come through, but Western has the potential to do even more,” she said. “If we can spread the message of the important work United Way is doing to create lasting change in people’s lives and increase participation in the campaign by staff, faculty and alumni, Western can definitely have a tremendous impact on our community.”
Outside the Western Gates, McAuley said, need exists across London and surrounding communities.
“United Way is doing a tremendous job to create safe communities. But we still have a housing problem. We have a child poverty problem. People still need to use food banks,” she said, adding 1-in-5 children in London live in poverty and 1-in-5 people will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their life. “We cannot ignore these issues.
“United Way is creating real, lasting change. It is an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for all people in our community and helping individuals, families, neighbourhoods and communities reach their full potential.”
Led by Christy Bacik, BA’92 (Political Science), the Elgin-Middlesex campaign launches with the 3M Harvest Lunch and Community Campaign Launch on Sept. 18 at Budweiser Gardens. Western kicks off its supporting campaign with the Show Your Local Love Fest on Oct. 10 on Concrete Beach.
Nevertheless, McAuley has already started building her team of ‘Campaign Champions’ across campus.
“We have a fantastic United Way Committee on campus that have been planning for the fall campaign. Our new President (Alan Shepard) is a longtime supporter of United Way,” said McAuley. “Many people are working behind the scenes to ensure a successful campaign. I will not be doing this on my own.”