Dardano would like to see closer ties with United Way and Minto

While Minto may tout itself as the “place where your family belongs,” Ken Dardano of the United Way would like to see closer ties with his organization in order to help those families more.

While Minto itself might not qualify for its own United Way, Dardano, executive director of Guelph and Wellington, said the town is served through the Guelph and Wellington or­ganization.

As he thanked council for inviting him to the meeting, “It was really good to read about you in the Wellington Adver­tiser.”

Dardano lives in Elora and said he was reading about Minto’s discussion of the Unit­ed Way. He added he used to work for the Scouts Canada regional office in Palmerston for a few years.

“It was kinda cool coming back up here.”

He added he was in the area more recently when he was invited to the North Wellington Seniors Council meeting.

“It is one of the agencies we support,” he explained. “We give North Wellington seniors just over $10,000 to run their programs. We are the largest non-government funder in the voluntary sector in Canada.”

Dardano said the United Way of Guelph and Wellington provides services to Guelph, Wellington County, and in Orangeville and Dufferin.

Locally, there are there three primary areas of focus: social planning, fund allocation, and local fundraising campaigns.

“We act as a social planning council and have three social planners involved in research, looking at various statistics. Right now, we have a big focus on poverty reduction and poverty elimination.”

Dardano noted the recent cre­ation of the Poverty Eli­mination Task Force.

“We’ve put a lot of re­sources behind it. That’s our big project. We’re also working on issues like homelessness … looking at various gaps and needs within the community.”

Dardano said there has also been research on seniors “particularly in this area,” the issues of transportation, and how to work together to address some of those things.

He said there is a look at fund allocation and how the organization provides money to various groups.

Plus there is the campaign to raise funds.

“We’ve had a lot of success in our campaigns

Dardano said the United Way has been serving its community for almost 70 years and has raised over $12-million in the past five years for social service programs.

He added that in 2009, the Guelph and Wellington County community raised $2.66-million for United Way: “The largest amount we’ve raised in our history. This is great considering the times we’re in and the needs that we’ve seen.”

Dardano stressed the United Way works with funded agencies “to improve the lives of local residents.”

When he spoke to Minto deputy-mayor Judy Dirksen and read about council’s interest in the United Way, “for sure your interest is in the local community.”

He said the United Way ac­complishes this by forming local partnerships, focussing locally, and being effective. “Eighty cents on every dollar goes back to supporting agencies.” He said some agencies have administration costs as high as 40 cents on the dollar.

In Wellington-Guelph area:

– 1 in 10 children is living below the poverty line;

– Ontario Works cases in­creased over 13% in 2008;

– Employment insurance claimants increased by over 236% between April 2008 and present (that amount he later said is up to 268%);

– On any given day, be­tween 80 to 85 emergency shelter beds are in use in Guelph and Wellington County; and

– food bank usage has increased by over 28% in the past four years.

Dardano still expects another huge increase in Ontario Works cases this year as well.

“We know our unemployment rates are really jumping on us. That has caused a lot of concerns and there will be a lot of ramifications.”

One, is foodbank use has gone up.

He said in talking to the representatives from Centre Well­ington, reports are that food bank use has jumped 48%. Overall, the United Way has tracked a 28% increase in the past few years. He added there is a lot more in-depth research on the United Way website.

Dardano said there are over 40 agencies in Guelph and Wellington that receive funding for a total of 80 programs.

Of those, 28 offer programs in the northern part of Well­ington County. Some of those include Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Wellington, Distress Centre Guelph-Wellington, North Wellington Seniors Council and the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON).

He left council with a list of all the programs and agencies.

He commented on supports for snacks, breakfast, and lunch programs at 65 sites in Guelph, Wellington, and Dufferin – in­cluding programs at Palmer­ston, Minto-Clifford, and Nor­well District High?School. In 2009-2010 they will provide meals to over 11,800 students.

He cited “Guelph Welling­ton Women in Crisis which does a lot of great work in our communities … providing services and supports to women who have been abused.”

Dardano said each year the program offers support to over 1,500 women and children and answers over 4,500 crisis calls.

United Way Funded program include the Sexual Assault Centre and the Rural Women’s Support Program.

“They provide a lot of great works in our community.

As for the community resource centres, they are heavily funded by the United Way, and do a lot of outreach work and services.

He explained they offer hands-on support such as finding transportation, offering parenting workshops, and navigating through government programs.

Dardano emphasized donations to the United Way are directed to where funds will have the greatest impact and the funds remain in Guelph and Wellington County.

“The dollars stay local and it provides a lot of stable funding for organizations.”

He explained the United Way funds on a three-year cycle, and it is funding those groups might not get from other places.

He said there are a number of ways Minto workplaces can get involved.

He said donations can be done through the United Way website, through the workplace, leadership donations ($1,000 or more per year).

He added there are currently 350 leadership donors in Guelph Wellington who, in total, raise just under a half million dollars each year.

He said there are payroll de­ductions, and there is the Tomorrow Fund, an endowment which is used for emergency funding.

One of our biggest impacts is people running workplace campaigns.

He said one of the questions raised directly by Minto council was how it could get more directly involved, or if it could start its own United Way.

Dardano explained Minto falls under the jurisdiction of the Guelph-Wellington United Way.

“Those jurisdictions are set up nationally and there is criteria laid out. Unfortunately (Minto on its own) would not fit into that.”

“We would encourage you to work within the United Way that is here. There is a lot that can be done.”

He said that in some in­stances and in other communities, United Way committees have been set up.

Dardano said the United Way would be willing to put resources and staffing into that.

If there are particular questions or planning issues, Dar­dano said they might be able to help as well.

He noted Dufferin County is currently setting up a committee and encouraged Minto to become more involved.

“Definitely we need more impact in the northern part of the county, and, in fact, throughout the county.”

He said there has been a lot of impact in Guelph in terms of workplace campaigns, but “out in this neck of the woods we’ve had a real struggle [with fundraising].”

Dardano also said residents could target donations towards a specific project or program.

“We do encourage new programs, and smaller programs to address a particular need,” he said.

Mayor David Anderson said Wellington County staff are very active in various fundraising activities.

Dardano agreed that they have done a tremendous job over the years.

“As a non-profit corporation as you are,” Anderson asked if Dardano was seeing adequate transportation options in the north for the demand that is there.

Dardano said, “There isn’t adequate transportation and we’re trying to address the issue.”

He noted funds have been sent to the community resource centre to pool and coordinate transportation efforts, especially with volunteer drivers.

He said the cost of gas and insurance are issues.

But he said, the community resource centre is spearheading that, along with a number of other issues in the local communities.

“There is definitely a gap in that area.”