A United merger

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Lorraine Goddard, chief executive officer of United Way Centraide Windsor-Essex Chatham-Kent and United Way of Chatham-Kent board president Chris Appleton show off the logo for the new organization. On July 1, the United Way of Windsor-Essex and the United Way of Chatham-Kent officially joined forces, forming one organization.

Chatham-Kent, Windsor-Essex United Way branches team up

 

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The United Way of Chatham-Kent has entered a new era.

On July 1, the 76-year-old agency officially joined forces with the United Way of Windsor-Essex. Going forward, the blended organization has been dubbed United Way Centraide Windsor-Essex Chatham-Kent (UWCWECK).

But while governance will change, officials are reassuring donors and the community that dollars raised in Chatham-Kent will stay in Chatham-Kent.

Lorraine Goddard, chief executive officer of the Windsor-Essex United Way, has assumed the role of overseeing the Chatham-Kent branch.

At the announcement, held at the Tilbury Information and H.E.L.P. Centre June 26, Goddard said the new regional organization remains committed to helping the local communities it serves.

“We understand the importance of local support and the unique needs of each community,” Goddard told the gathering. “That’s why we want to be very clear that all donations made in Chatham-Kent will stay in Chatham-Kent, just as the donations made in Windsor-Essex will stay in Windsor-Essex.”

Goddard said the United Way has developed a new donation tracking system to ensure funds end up in the proper communities.

The merger between the two agencies is part of growing trend. In 2017, there were 110 United Way non-profit chapters in Canada. Today that number has dropped to 58, mostly due to regionalization and blending resources.

“It’s really a broader strategy for United Way,” Goddard explained.

UWCWECK will be governed by a 22-member board of directors led by Windsor-Essex chair Lori Atkinson. Four seats on the board will be allocated to Chatham-Kent representatives.

Chris Appleton, president of the board of directors for the Chatham-Kent United Way, called the merger a “good news story.

“This unification plan will allow both United Ways to access the benefits of a larger organization while maintaining strong local leadership and community-level connections,” he said. “I can assure you funds raised in Chatham-Kent will stay in Chatham-Kent. The unification strategy just makes fantastic business sense.”

According to Goddard, office space will be staffed and maintained in Chatham at 425 McNaughton Ave W. and at the Tilbury Information and H.E.L.P. Centre, along with the non-profit’s headquarters at 300 Giles Blvd. in Windsor.

Currently there are five employees in C-K. In Windsor, the United Way offers programs directly, with 24 employees.

Next steps for the organization include consultation with the community, Goddard explained, followed by the launch of new fundraising campaigns as the agency rebuilds.

Along with the obvious pressures brought by the pandemic, the United Way of Chatham-Kent has faced significant challenges in recent times. A new CEO came and went in the last couple of years, and there was also the matter of an employee allegedly embezzling some $300,000 from the non-profit’s coffers.

It is unknown at this time if the money was recovered, however a criminal investigation into the matter is underway.

Interim CEO Maureen Geddes admitted the loss of funds “may have hastened” the merger, but stressed reorganization talks were already in the works.

Kudos were also given to the memory of former board member and long-time United Way advocate Wes Thompson, who passed away recently.

Appleton called Thompson a “true visionary” and collaborator.

Thompson knew about the merger before his death, Appleton added, and gave the initiative two thumbs up.

“I can’t say enough about the man,” Appleton said.

“He was participating in board votes, right up until a couple of weeks before he passed,” Geddes said of Thompson. “He was a dedicated supporter and we miss him terribly.”

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