Each additional supporter, and each additional dollar, brings the community one step closer to pandemic recovery.
More importantly, said Western campaign co-chair Erika Chamberlain and Faculty of Law dean, the campus community is committed to showing its support for city and county neighbours.
“We’re trying to make sure that everyone recovers from the pandemic because it’s widened a lot of gaps for so many people,” said Chamberlain, noting that people living in poverty, have illness or have experienced violence were particularly hard-hit with health, economic and social inequities.
At the same time, Western students, faculty, staff and retirees have stepped up their efforts to support vulnerable Londoners, Chamberlain said.
The 2020 campaign at Western generated donations of more than $635,000, an increase from 2019 giving levels, despite the pandemic.
“That, to us, says a lot about the importance to the Western community of the broader community, and that we are all connected. Individually and collectively, that translates to a considerable impact,” said Chamberlain, who co-chairs the Western campaign with Kim Miller, Western’s director of academic support and engagement.
The United Way is an umbrella agency that, last year alone, invested $9.5 million in local services and networks that feed children, strengthen families, build neighbourhoods, tackle racism, support seniors, prevent homelessness, welcome newcomers, provide connection, and promote leadership.
United Way Elgin Middlesex is the largest non-government funder of social services in our region and supports a network of 80 essential programs and services at 49 local agencies. Last year, more than 100,000 people in the community – or one in five – used a United Way program or service.
Despite the pandemic, and in some cases because of it, donor generosity ramped up last year, said United Way Elgin Middlesex president and CEO Kelly Ziegner.
“I think we have a community that is incredibly caring, and what we heard time and again from donors was, ‘I’m doing OK right now – but I know my neighbour, my friend, my family member is struggling,” said Ziegner.
The agency aims to invest $4.5 million from local donations this year following a campaign that calls the community to be “united in local love.” That includes viewing grant requests through a lens of community impact, poverty reduction, equity and policy solutions.
“We have an opportunity as a local community to look at what pandemic recovery looks like and build a community back to better than it was … and spark long-term change,” Ziegner said.
The regional agency’s kick-off campaign featured the virtual 3M Harvest Lunch, for which supporters donated the equivalent of 3,000 meals to neighbours in need.
Most contributions from United Way supporters at Western come from payroll contributions. Organizers of the Western campaign are asking ongoing contributors to add one dollar per week to their giving levels. They’re also asking new donors to start by giving one dollar weekly.
There are also events scheduled throughout the campaign that encourage one-time donations.
A sampling of Western event opportunities to give:
- the kick-off festival on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. beside Concrete Beach, featuring musicians Mikalyn Hay and Aaron Allen; a $5 chili and cornbread lunch option; and booths with wares from Western entrepreneurs
- the Oct. 16 football game between the Western Mustangs and Windsor Lancers
- a virtual stairclimb on Nov. 4
- top-up coffee day at all Western eateries on Nov. 18