GUELPH – “We can be better.”
That’s the premise of this year’s United Way Guelph Wellington Dufferin (UWGWD) fundraising campaign.
During the launch of the campaign at Shelldale Community Centre on Sept. 13, executive director Glenna Banda said “I think for many of us lately, life feels hard.”
Many people are asking themselves “‘How did we get here? Where will we go next? Will things get better?” Banda said.
According to the United Way, yes, things will get better, and it’s up to the community to help make that change a reality.
Guelph Mayor Cam Gurthrie attended the launch of the organization’s 83rd annual campaign, along with Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner, Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition executive director Brendan Johnson, and many United Way representatives and community members.
As they entered the gymnasium guests were asked what “better” looks like to them, and answers were displayed on a wall.
“Better looks like a lot of things, and it could be different for me than it is for you,” said 2023 campaign chair Ray Stultz.
“A better community will take all of us doing those small things every day to make better possible.”
Guthrie pleaded with the community to step up and support the campaign.
“Please, community. Let’s do it. We can be better. I know we can be better. That includes me,” he said to the crowd.
Schreiner called on the community to exceed this year’s fundraising goal.
The current goal is to surpass last year’s total of $2.6 million raised in Guelph, Wellington and Dufferin.
In the last five years, UWGWD has raised more than $10 million to support programs such as food pantries, emergency shelters and mental health crisis lines.
The United Way is the second largest funder of social service programs in Canada – second only to the government.
In 2022, UWGWD helped fund services that supported more than 90,000 people in Guelph, and Wellington and Dufferin counties.
There was an atmosphere of excitement during the campaign launch, which began with an upbeat pop music playlist while attendees socialized.
Banda said officials chose Shelldale for the campaign launch because it is a “space shared by many,” with programs funded across every United Way funding stream other than rural communities.
These programs include Shelldale Family Gateway, Compass Community Services, and The Seed.
“This is a space that provides the best examples of a community that is looking at providing wrap-around services and is welcoming,” Stultz said.
During the campaign launch Stultz danced onto the stage with a wide smile on his face while Bill Withers’ Lovely Day played loudly from the speakers.
Stultz said for him, being better means more kindness, more hope and more generosity.
“Let’s do this Guelph, Wellington, Dufferin,” he said. “Let’s be better.”
Banda said “every contribution, no matter how small, will make a difference.
“We can help each other to live better lives, because what’s better for you is better for everyone.”
She added, “A better community is one where everyone has the supports they need to live a better life – where everyone feels like they belong and are valued, everyone has mental health supports during the tough days, basic needs of food, shelter, and income and where children and youth know they have limitless potential.”
Stultz said the new campaign is “re-energizing” and will lead to “lasting positive change.”
“If you haven’t donated to United Way in the past, or not in recent years, we encourage you to take a look at the local innovative and impactful work we are doing – we know you’ll be energized by some bold changes,” Banda said.
“Being bold and different can be scary at times, but it’s where the magic happens.”
The campaign launch presentation ended with a bang, as two confetti party poppers exploded on stage, showering Banda and Stultz.
Donations are accepted at workplaces across Guelph and Wellington and Dufferin counties and through the United Way office.
For more information or to donate, visit unitedwaygwd.com or call 519-821-0571.