United Way raises $1.687 million

Volunteers reveal the fundraising total of more than $1.687 million in the annual United Way of Chatham-Kent campaign at a touchdown breakfast Thursday in Chatham.

The United Way of Chatham-Kent (UWoCK) reached 98 per cent of its $1.75-million goal for this year’s campaign.

The organization made the announcement at a touchdown breakfast Thursday morning at the Links of Kent. It revealed it had raised $1,687,048.

Elizabeth Downey-Sunnen, campaign chair, was happy with the total.

“I really feel like it’s a testament to Chatham-Kent. We got so close in a difficult year,” she said. “People were so moved by the stories we told of the people in our community.”

Downey-Sunnen said she became involved the United Way back as a student at Chatham-Kent Secondary School. She has since had her eyes opened as to how much the organization contributes to the betterment of the community.

“I got into the United Way only because it’s the right thing to do, but I really didn’t know the impact,” she said. “It’s been outstanding to watch people’s lives change for the better.”

Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, CEO of UWoCK, said the campaign capped off an incredible year of passion and support.

Downey-Sunnen said Kirkwood-Whyte lives and breathes the United Way.

“Karen Kirkwood-Whyte’s commitment to the United Way is something you feel the minute you walk in to The 425,” she said, referring to the United Way building at 425 McNaughton Ave. W. in Chatham.

Downey-Sunnen, who took the campaign chair position in late summer, credited the UWoCK team for its efforts as well.

“I didn’t have to figure out how to raise $1.75 million. I’ve been so well supported throughout the campaign,” she said.

The United Way serves approximately 40,000 people in the Chatham-Kent area through its 30-plus funded programs and services.

Downey-Sunnen said she looked forward to her regular meetings with the campaign cabinet.

“They were full of creative ideas. These were places where the people of Chatham-Kent came to make a difference, to be part of something bigger than themselves,” she said.

Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope praised the UWoCK for its tireless efforts.

“Unless you’ve been down the trail, you really don’t understand the impact of the United Way in our community,” he said to the volunteers, contributors and staff gathered for the touchdown event. “By you contributing, you will impact lives like you will never realize.”

Marian Redford, manager of community investment at Union Gas, a huge contributor annually to the United Way, said the entire organization looks forward to supporting the campaign every year.

“Union Gas believes in being an active partner. The United Way is a great fit because its impact is massive,” she said. “The annual fundraising campaign has been a fabric of our company for a long time.”

Hope said he is impressed by the giving nature of Chatham-Kent citizens.

“We’re known as a community that gives much more per capita than much larger communities,” he said.

Downey-Sunnen said chairing the campaign has been very rewarding, despite the commitment. However, she’s initially unsure of what will happen next, now that the campaign is over.

“Watching the United Way come together has been inspiring. It has absolutely filled my soul this year,” she said. “I don’t remember what life was like before it, however.”

The funds raised during the 2017 campaign will be distributed locally immediately to improve lives and build community here in Chatham-Kent.



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