Advanced team to lead UWay campaign

From left, Advanced Realty personnel Cris Butler, Ryan Rusnak, Sheila Young, Bill Myers, Laurie Reaume and Tricia Weese are all smiles as they are the first company team to lead the United Way of Chatham-Kent’s annual fundraising campaign.

What’s it going to take? Teamwork.

That’s the case with this year’s $1.5-million United Way of Chatham-Kent (UWOCK) fundraising campaign, as the team at Advanced Realty will collectively “chair” the effort.

Tom Slager, director of donor donations and communications, said this is new territory for the charity organization.

“This is the first time in the history of the United Way of Chatham-Kent an entire company has stepped up to lead the way,” he said.

Bill Myers and Tricia Weese will be the most visible faces of the seven-member Advanced team, as they will sit on the United Way campaign cabinet.

Both look forward to taking on the challenge.

“I have been involved in the United Way for the past four years. I fell in love with it. The more I did, the more I wanted to do,” Myers said.

Weese, who has a young son, said the team effort is appreciated.

“It’s great to have people to lean on,” she said. “This is something I’ve always wanted to do.”

Myers sees the team approach as a form of strength in numbers.

“We feel as a team, we are hoping we can accomplish a lot more, maybe bring some change,” he said. “In the past, it’s always been one or two people (chairing the campaign). That’s a big burden because it’s a volunteer job.”

Weese has been involved with the United Way since 2004 in various levels of volunteering and support.

Weese and Myers said they see the need for the United Way on a daily basis, as the rising price of homes and lack of affordable rental properties are putting the pinch on the ALICE group of our community. ALICE stands for Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed, according to Steve Pratt, CEO of UWOCK.

“They are often referred to as the working poor – people who are working incredibly hard, but struggling to make ends meet,” he said. “It’s the hardest group that we have to support in our community, where folks are earning too much to qualify for the government supports and other programs that are made available, but they don’t have enough to get out of that situation. It turns into a huge game of Snakes and Ladders.”

While details of the campaign are still being worked out, new this year is a 50/50 draw.

Weese said it launched Sept. 1 and the draw will take place Oct. 11.

“This is something that has become quite popular. People don’t mind dropping 20 bucks for a chance to win money,” she said, acknowledging the recent successes of 50/50 draws for the health alliance and Big Brothers Big Sisters. “Our goal is $40,000. We’re hoping to exceed that to add to the regular campaign.”

The campaign kicked off this past Friday with an event at The Kent. More than $250,000 in early donations poured in from organizations that included Enbridge, TekSavvy, UAW and CM Print, as well as from independent donors.

One element of the fall campaign that has evolved is Red Feather, a series of sporting events and activities run by area high schools that traditionally helped raise funds for the United Way, Slager said.

“Red Feather as it existed in the past, doesn’t exist anymore. We are shifting focus more to Youth United kids, which are the ones that put on the Red Feather stuff,” he said. “We’re trying to give them a lot more experience with project planning and also mentoring and networking with people who can maybe help them into careers.

“There will still be a few events. It’s not going to be the big thing it used to be. It’s going to have a different focus. But there will still be things spread throughout the year for them to do instead of just in one week.”

Pratt said any money raised by Youth United will go towards helping youth.

“All the funds raised by youth are also going to be invested by youth. It’s going to be a self-contained mini-campaign of the United Way,” he said. “That way, they have the whole experience from project development into actually looking at the causes that are out in the community, and how to support them. They’ll get to see the whole cycle.”
Overall, Pratt said UWOCK’s reach last year extended to more than 45,000 individuals in Chatham-Kent, through 30-plus funded programs.

Slager thinks Advanced could be blazing a new trail in terms of campaign leadership.

“It shows the companies of Chatham-Kent they have an opportunity to lead the way,” he said.

Myers agreed.

“Maybe in the future, more companies will step up (to ‘chair’). The more help you have, the better chance there is of success,” he said.




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