Elizabeth Downey-Sunnen knows she has big shoes to fill – two pairs of them, actually.
Officials with the United Way of Chatham-Kent (UWoCK) named her as the 2017 campaign chair on Wednesday. In recent years, the campaign has had two co-chairs. But Downey-Sunnen said she’s up for the challenge.
“I don’t mind working with a group. And I’m just as happy working on my own,” she said. “If anything, it will give my personality more room to grow.”
Downey-Sunnen was once a youth ambassador with the United Way when she attended Chatham-Kent Secondary School. She said the work was challenging, rewarding and something that created lasting memories.
“I had so much fun, but it was so much work,” she said. “It was so impressive to have an impact as a teen. That feeling stays with you for your entire life.”
Downey-Sunnen added that now that her kids are old enough where they don’t require constant parental oversight she thought it was time to return to giving back to the community.
“I believe our community is stronger because we give back to our children and our seniors,” she said.
Steve Pratt, who co-chaired the campaign in 2016 with Patricia Wright, passed the “torch” at the meeting – handing over a box of business cards for Downey-Sunnen.
Pratt, who the UWoCK has brought own for some marketing support, said he was jubilant Downey-Sunnen accepted the chair position.
“She’s one of the most genuine, loving and supportive individuals,” he said.
Pratt wasn’t the only UWoCK staffer praising Downey-Sunnen.
“I’m really, really happy with who has come on board,” Tom Slager, director of resource development for UWoCK.
Pratt said in 2016 alone, the United Way touched the lives of more than 40,000 people in our communities.
Downey-Sunnen credited her family – husband Brian and daughters Zadie, 10, and Milo, 6, with serving as her backbone.
“I wouldn’t be able to do anything without their support,” she said.
She credits the United Way for helping shape the social fabric of Chatham-Kent.
“The United Way is a very important part of our community,” she said. “Without its continued support … we couldn’t have the quality of life we do.”
As for the 2017 campaign goal, Slager said that will be announced in early September.