United Way Central Alberta aims to reach target

For three straight years the goal has been out of reach but organizers hope for change

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 04:33 pm | By Johnnie Bachusky

Last week’s United Way Central Alberta kickoff to its 2012 fundraising campaign began with plenty of optimism, splash and a new catchy slogan, “Change starts here.”

There was even a bouncy “Jump Start” PowerPoint presentation to show that generosity is still alive and well in the region, and that many companies are already mobilizing their resources to help the needy.

Organizers at the Sept. 13 Red Deer kickoff announced that $151,565 has been raised to date.

The overall goal this year is to collect $1,990,000, a goal $30,000 higher than last year and almost $55,000 less than what was ultimately raised.

“There were some concerns around the table we haven’t met the goals in the last few years. This year they are trying to make sure they do make the goal,” said Buck Buchanan, co-chair of this year’s campaign. “We think it is very doable, and hopefully we can exceed that. Administration did not want another year of disappointment for the staff and the community that they didn’t quite reach what they were trying to do.”

United Way Central Alberta has not been able to reach its fundraising target for three consecutive years. In 2009, the goal was $2,103,103 but only $1,840,707 was raised. The following year the goal was an even $2 million but the agency collected $1,902,737. And last year the goal was $1,960,000. Fundraising fell short at $1,935,263.

Buchanan admitted the economy has hurt with some “burps and hiccups.” He also said the organization has discovered that there are 50 per cent less companies and people that are donating the same amount of money they used to. He said it is essential to get those people back to contribute.

“They have some issues over the past couple of years but in a lot of instances maybe we have taken them for granted. A lot of times it is just the ask. If you can get out and make the ask maybe we can possibly get them back,” said Buchanan. “Some of the companies we have been talking to have been suggesting they are inundated. A lot of the bigger guys are saying we are trying to get down to two or three charities of choice and that way we can maintain our sustainability for United Way.”

Last year United Way invested in 37 groups and organizations throughout central Alberta, including $22,660 to the Sundre & District Nutrition For Learning Society and another $6,000 to Sundre’s Greenwood Neighbourhood Place.

United Way officials also point out there have been an additional $99,815 in investments for the southern region of central Alberta, including the communities of Bowden, Butte, Dickson, Innisfail, James River Bridge, Markerville, Olds, Penhold, Spruce View, Stauffer, Sundre, Torrington, Trochu, Westward Ho, and Wimborne.

Some of the programs being offered in this region include program materials for the new family centre in Innisfail, summer camp programs for vulnerable children and youth, a 24-hour crisis line, counselling services and educational programs for any individual who has experienced sexual abuse, support for several marginalized populations (citizens with visual impairments, and schizophrenia) to live a more inclusive life in Central Alberta, and aboriginal elder support services.

Officials also note that while these communities, as well as Didsbury and Carstairs, are not now member communities many of their residents do access services in agencies from member municipalities that are funded by United Way Central Alberta, like the Red Deer-based Central Alberta Safe Harbour Society, Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre.

Co-chair John Knoch encouraged the crowd of about 500 at the campaign kickoff to create change in the community by giving and volunteering, and that the impact is made throughout Central Alberta. He noted more than 107,000 people were helped in the region by programs and services supported by United Way.


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