IMPORTANT SPEECHES - CEO of United Way of Central Alberta Robert Mitchell giving a speech of the importance of United Way in the lives of Central Albertans at the kick off to the 52nd campaign. Carlie Connolly/Red Deer Express

VIDEO: A sea of red as United Way campaign kicks off

In its 52nd campaign year, organization helps support more than 40 programs

A sea of nearly 400 red-clad supporters filled the Sheraton Red Deer Hotel on Thursday at noon to help kick off United Way Central Alberta’s 52nd campaign.

“We support over 40 different programs and we just try to make the impetus for getting people to understand the money raised locally stays locally, and we’re improving lives locally in our three different area that we talked about,” said CEO of United Way Central Alberta Robert Mitchell.

Presented by Johnston Ming Manning, LLP in partnership with the Sheraton, the kick-off event marks the start of the four-month fundraising drive to support more than 40 programs and services in three priority investment areas.

Those three areas are education, income and wellness.

“Education is all about helping kids to be all they can be and about getting kids to reach their full potential,” said Mitchell.

Income is about moving people from poverty to possibility, getting people off that cycle to poverty.

“That’s why we talk about the employment opportunities, crisis counselling and that sort of thing.”

And wellness is helping to build strong and healthy communities.

During these challenging times in Alberta, United Way has adopted an appropriate theme for the campaign – ‘Improving Lives Locally’. Both the fundraising and community investment decisions are executed by teams of dedicated volunteers who support United Way’s approach of creating lasting positive community impact.

Mitchell said the community support has been outstanding. The backbone of their support, he said, is payroll deductions from the various companies that support them.

“This is just everyone coming together to say, ‘Okay this is United Way’s campaign time and we’re celebrating and we’ve brought people out,’ so you can hear how the impact of the dollars make a real impact in people’s lives and how it’s affected them directly.”

This year, fundraising efforts are led by volunteer Campaign Cabinet Co-Chairs owner of Corquest, Linda Wilson and City Councillor Ken Johnston.

Highlights of this year’s kick-off include creative visual pieces that illustrate what improving lives locally means to United Way Central Alberta and their supporters, as well as moving, real life stories told by people whose lives have been transformed by United Way’s support.

Johnston said when it comes to raising money workplace campaigns are always a focus this time of year.

“A lot of companies that have come out here this year have incredibly creative and imaginative workplace campaigns. They have a lot of fun and they engage their people,” he said.

He said it’s also about basic economics.

“If you can do a payroll deduction, that is just a multiplier especially when you look at the matching challenge and the leadership challenge that we have.”

Johnston said people can expect an exciting announcement around mid October, related to the United Way.