Volunteers and supporters of the United Way Central Alberta celebrated $2.1 million raised for the organization in 2016 with a Friday breakfast at the Holiday Inn and Suites.
Considering that sum was raised in the middle of a recession, it spoke to how the community recognizes how it’s even more important to give during tough times, said United Way Central Alberta CEO Robert Mitchell.
“I think it says our community is very generous. I’ve said this before. We have a very generous community. I think they have a big social heart,” Mitchell said.
“They realize that during these times, although it’s more difficult to raise the money, we need the funds more than ever because demand goes up from the agencies that we support.”
The money raised is slightly lower than previous years, said Mitchell, but it will still allow the charity to continue providing the same level of service this year.
He said they will have to cut spending in some areas, but want to keep their investments in the community the same. He added money in reserves will help.
“We’ve had some good years in the past, as you guys know, so we’ve put money in reserves, invested it wisely, and we’ll use some of that money this year for sure,” he said. “That’s what reserves are for, in my opinion. You dig into them when you need to. And this is a year we will need to. And hopefully as the economy picks up in 2017, it will be a good year.”
Red Deer’s City Manager Craig Curtis was volunteer campaign co-chair along with Councillor Ken Johnston.
Curtis said they knew it would be a tough year, with higher unemployment, reduced spending and economic uncertainty.
He asked the room rhetorically, how do you ask a community to keep giving in times like these? It wasn’t as difficult as you might think, he said.
“United Way has a very loyal group of supporters who understand they are making an investment in their community, not just a donation,” Curtis said.
Not everybody could keep giving but many did. There were 2,693 donors last year.
“We made sure we didn’t ask everyone to give more. We simply asked those who could, to consider it. And they did,” he said.
The top three fundraisers were honoured during the breakfast: NOVA Chemicals, DOW/MEGlobal and Alberta Health Services.
NOVA Chemicals was the top fundraiser, contributing $747,000 or 34% of the overall campaign.
Mitchell said the United Way supports three priorities: education, income and wellness.
Some of the impact numbers presented were as follows: 994 people found jobs; 188 of them were immigrants and 165 others were housed.
Also, 1,985 children were sent to after-school programming, 384 children had opportunities for skill development, 2,395 received crisis support and 8,342 people were allowed to live independently.