By Dan Rankin
At their regular meeting Tuesday morning, Perth South Council heard a delegation from two very important people about a very important cause. The presentation, which included some background on the work done by the local chapter of United Way and an ask for a financial contribution by Perth South, was given by United Way Perth-Huron fundraising campaign chair Andrew Williams, President of the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance, as well as campaign cabinet member Ron Shaw, retired former CAO for the City of Stratford. According to Shaw, this year United Way Perth-Huron is making a distinct effort to reach out to municipalities around Perth County. “The United Way is all about our neighbours and people we know,” he said. “The United Way and the agencies it has funded have big impacts on the people in our neighbourhood.” On Thursday morning in St. Marys, Mayor Al Strathdee presented the campaign with a cheque for $6,655, equivalent to $1 for every resident of the town. Most of the public knows the organization as “a fundraiser for organizations or agencies that don’t really have the capacity to fundraise” that collects through an annual campaign, and allocates out funds based on need, Williams said. But things have been changing recently. “United Way is focusing a lot of energy now around research to make sure that when they do allocate dollars out, it’s going to areas of most need,” he said. While fundraising for United Way Perth-Huron has often been done through an annual fundraising campaign cycle, right now, they are in a “three-year campaign,” said Williams. “We’ve identified 47 funded partners ahead of the three year campaign, and then we fundraise towards that,” he said. “It’s allowing people a little bit more confidence in where their money’s going. It’s allowing the agencies a bit more confidence in knowing that they’ll have the money for an extended period of time.” Some of those agencies include the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), Family Services Perth-Huron, John Howard Society London and District (institutional visiting and reintegration Support program), the Emily Murphy Centre and the Social Research and Planning Council. United Way funds are allocated according to three priorities aimed at creating positive local change: “Poverty to Possibilites,” “All that Kids Can Be,” and “Strong Communities.” According to Williams, fundraising for the United Way is different than fundraising for hospitals, which he is familiar with through his role with the HPHA. “It’s a lot easier to raise money for a capital project than it is for a social service, from what I’ve seen,” he said. “You go past the hospital in St. Marys and you can see the building that you’ve donated money to, or the piece of equipment. You can’t see the social issues that you’re supporting, but they’re there.” Bev Hagedorn, executive director from Stratford/Perth Shelterlink, was one of the people travelling around the region on the United Way’s Caravan of Hope Thursday. She described how, from their shelter on the third floor of Stratford General Hospital, they help homeless youths between the ages of 16 and 24. They are able to serve up to 14 youths at a time, and around 150 annually, she said. “We heavily rely on the United Way and that’s why I’m on the bus today,” she said. “We need [the United Way] to do what they do, and we need your help to help them do what they do. We can’t [fundraise] on our own because we’re doing that.” Strathdee credited the United Way for the work they’ve done in the community, including at the youth centre and, currently, with the downtown job action centre serving former Heinz employees. “United Way always seems to be there for us, so it’s our turn to support the United Way,” he said Thursday. Key to their fundraising is money raised at over 300 workplaces throughout Huron-Perth, but the local United Way is also approaching 17 upper and lower-tier municipalities from around the area, Williams said. “We’re asking you to consider in your budget cycle 50 cents per resident to the United Way campaign,” he told Perth South Council. “Then we’re going to ask Perth County for 50 cents per resident for Perth County.” Perth South Council referred United Way’s request to its 2017 budget review process.