GenNext-The Needle and the Damage Done

“I sing the song because I love the man, I know that some of you won’t understand”- Neil Young, The Needle and the Damage Done.

Neil Young’s iconic song was written more than 40 years ago, describing the destruction he saw even among his own friends from heroin addiction.

It resonates today as Waterloo Region deals with the aftermath of opioid addiction.

In 2017 more than 70 people died from overdoses.   Governments of all levels are working on a response, while people try to understand exactly what is happening.

GenNext Waterloo Region invites you to learn more about the issue at our February 8th event: The Needle and the Damage Done.

We’ll have a diverse and interesting group of panelists on hand to answer your questions including

Christine Padaric, from Moms stop the Harm and Overdose Canada.   We’ll sharing more about the story of this local advocate as we get closer to the date, but you’ll understand a mother who lost her son to a drug overdose has a powerful message.

Also on hand will be Bill Kirby from For a Better Cambridge     Bill is also a member of the City of Cambridge Community Outreach task force.   This grassroots group is working to ensure all voices are heard in the discussion.

Patrick Boot will join us from Overlap Associates    We invited Patrick because of the way his organization helps individuals and groups use empathy to solve big problems.

Violet Umanetz will also take part, representing Sanguen Health Centre    Sanguen has years of experience in dealing with vulnerable populations.

We need you too.  We want to hear your voice, and your questions.

“The Needle and the Damage Done” begins at 5:30 pm in the Communitech space at the Tannery.

You can register by following this link.


Making a Move

In April of 2017 we began the integration of United Way KW and Area and United Way Cambridge North Dumfries in to the new United Way Waterloo Region Communities.

Since that time we have been operating in two separate locations.  Understandably this causes some challenges to create a cohesive team.    Having every one of our staff members in one place, able to access all our resources at the same time is important, and much more efficient.

So, we are moving!

During the week of January 15th, we are packing up our Cambridge office on Thompson Drive, and our Waterloo location on Erb Street in Uptown Waterloo for new digs, at 50 Sportsworld Crossing.  We’ll be smack in the middle of the Region, which is fitting considering our services stretch right across so many communities.

Any move is stressful–it’s difficult enough when we are packing up our own homes.   But moving two offices into a single locations comes with its own particular set of —well—let’s call them opportunities!

While our phones will remain in service for much of next week, there may be some changes.  Calls to many of our staff may be rerouted to the cell phones for a day or so.  In addition, our donation servers may be unavailable for a few days, beginning on Tuesday January 16th.   We do expect them to be fully operational by Monday January 22nd.





Volunteers Power Affordable Housing.

 Each month United Way WRC, along with some of our media partners shines the spotlight on a local volunteer.  There are hundreds of opportunities for you to make a difference.  Our Kristen Feduck tells the story of Bryan Shows.

For many of us, our home is an anchor.   It’s a sanctuary where we can relax and create memories. But for others, that shelter is unstable and a reminder of the difficult path they face every day. There are people working right here to shore up those situations, and help change the power of poverty.

When Bryan Shows retired he was looking for a way to get involved in the community and give back. When he looked up local volunteering opportunities, he couldn’t believe the variety of positions available and the number of local agencies that had a real need for volunteers in order to make their work possible. Bryan chose Habitat for Humanity Waterloo Region and in just under one year, has logged over 250 volunteer hours.  In this time, he has become one of the key volunteers at the Cambridge ReStore, a retail store that accepts donations of used, discontinued items and salvageable building materials donated by manufacturers, contractors and individuals. Whether he is sweeping, building furniture, arranging displays or interacting with customers, Bryan is making a positive impact in the organization and the community as a whole.

Habitat for Humanity brings communities together to help families build strength, stability and independence through affordable home ownership. This mandate is even more important as affordable housing becomes increasingly difficult to find in Waterloo Region. It’s not only those living in poverty who can’t afford to own their own home, but also individuals and couples who work full-time, but just don’t have enough money left over at the month to save for a down payment.

Through the dedication of volunteers like Bryan the organization is able to make this mission a reality. Bryan says the acknowledgement of volunteers gives him a particularly warm feeling. He notes that both staff and management at the Cambridge ReStore thank him after every shift.

Bryan is quick to point out that the organization is not the only one that benefits from the arrangement: “Volunteering offers me the opportunity to put both my time and experience to use, assist where I can in helping newer volunteers get up to speed, gaining new knowledge myself, and finally appreciating that what I do and learn here is making a difference.”



To experience the benefits of volunteerism, like Bryan, search the online Volunteer Opportunities Database at  or call the Volunteer Centre at 519-621-1030, ext. 234.

Tax Time-Preparation is key

As we move into the first few days of the New Year, it’s time to start thinking about your tax return.   As a registered charity, United Way Waterloo Region Communities provides receipts for donation made during the calendar year.      If you’re among our supporters who make donations through payroll deduction, your T4 Slip should state the amount.   That information should be contained in Box 46 on your slip.


We have already started sending out some receipts to supporters, and will continue that process for the next few weeks.   If you do not receive a receipt for a 2017 donation please contact our office.

This page provides some excellent information to help you understand charitable donations and the tax system.

People can often be confused about what documents they might need to claim a charitable deduction.   Canada Revenue makes that information available on its website.

If you would like to make a donation for next year’s tax return, it’s never too early.  Just follow this link to learn about how you can support United Way, and reduce your tax bill for 2018

As always, individual situations can vary greatly, and we encourage you to discuss your personal concerns with a tax professional.


Poverty is not inevitable

Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is manmade, and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life-Nelson Mandela

At a time of instant reaction, the mere mention of the word poverty can bring up some divisive discussions.

That’s true of any issue these days.   Witness the conversation around the coming legalization of marijuana, or visit the comments section below any article about the region’s Light Rail Transit project.

We seem to live in a most cynical time, expecting the worst from each other.   Even if that other person might be living a similar life.    Here’s an interesting article on that phenomenon

It doesn’t mean we’re not looking for good in the world.   Maybe even desperately so, if the popularity of Fiona the Hippo is any indication.

And perhaps that’s why, at this time of year, the story of a good Samaritan touches us all.

Mr Mandela’s quote has been analyzed extensively since he spoke in 2005.    But at the very base of it, he encourages us to work together to solve a problem.

It was some 25 years ago, actually, closer to 30 when our federal government pledged to end child poverty in Canada.   By the year 2000.  And here we are.     1 in 10 people in Waterloo Region live below the low income threshold.

Maybe you’re one of those people who believes people who are poor….are “just lazy”    Or perhaps, those on Ontario Works are spending their monthly amounts on items you don’t consider necessities.   We’ve touched on some of those thoughts in a previous blog.

But there is movement.

Ontario is experimenting with a guaranteed minimum income.   The federal government just recently announced a new National Housing Strategy

These will take time.    But today, we can take action to move people out of poverty, to ensure the services they need are available at every step along the way.    You can donate right now


December 6: Remember and Act.

It has been almost 30 years since the horrific attack at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, where 14 women were murdered.   Just because they were women.

This article, from Raise the Hammer provides plenty of information on the issues surrounding violence against women.

The Canadian Foundation for Women also has an insightful piece on the number of women in poverty, and why that’s a particularly important segment of the discussion.

United Way Waterloo Region Communities supports dozens of agencies and programs touching almost every part of the region.

Many of them have a straight line connection to women who suffer abuse— places like Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region but many others also have a part to play.  Organizations providing counseling for individuals and families or providing support to children when their home life begins to implode.

It’s all part of what we call a “network of services”.   We know people will often access more than one service…..from a shelter, to a food bank to counseling. United Way exists to ensure that network is in place.

United Way is also there to provide information on the services anyone might need.    Locally, and across the country we fund the 211 …..  Available over the phone–with the 211 code—or online 211 is a directory  which can point you in the right direction no matter what kind of help is required.

On this day of remembrance and mourning, we ask you to take action.   Whether that’s by donating to your local women’s shelter, or any other organization you support, or by volunteering, or by lending a supportive ear, you can truly make a difference.


What you don’t know: United Way in November

You’re forgiven if you think of United Way as an organization you might only hear about during a workplace campaign.

Behind the scenes, there’s a lot going on, and not just in our offices.   Out there–in the real world where people are looking for information, and ways they can make a difference.

Last month,  November of 2017, we facilitated 9 Day of Caring events.  During a Day of Caring, you and your team will go to one of our supported agencies, and donate your time, expertise and energy to helping them out.

These projects can last up to seven hours, and can involve a variety of tasks, from painting, to yard work.   And along the way you’ll learn about the valuable work being done right here at home, supported by United Way Waterloo Region Communities.

Those Days of Caring last month added up to 270 volunteer hours with participants from three different workplaces.     Our volunteers provided food sorting and meal prep, painting and packaging to the Cambridge Self Help Food Bank, Nutrition for Learning, Kinbridge, and Community Support Connections Meals on Wheels.

We also hosted a Seeing is Believing tour with our partners from BMO.  Almost a dozen people visited three agencies —   oneROOF, Carizon, and House of Friendship.  There. they learned about the function of each of those organizations, and how their connection to United Way Waterloo Region Communities is helping to change the power of poverty.    You can learn more about Seeing is Believing opportunities from our website.

Education is a key part of the work we do in the seven communities which make up Waterloo Region.   United Way WRC is one of the partners, along with many other United Way agencies in Canada, in a program called Make the Month.  Here’s a link to some media coverage of this program.

Make the Month invites groups of people to meet with a representative of United Way to go through a poverty simulation–recreating the difficult choices faced by people living below the low-income threshold. (That’s 1 out of 10 people in Waterloo Region)

In November we ran the local version of the Make the Month simulator for four groups, providing an eye opening, and at times heart wrenching experience for almost 100 people.   You can contact our Community Engagement  team if you’re interested in learning more.

While the year is drawing quickly to a close, we are continuing to work with both our agency partners, as well as our supporters to provide more information about the work of United Way.

Thank you for checking us out….  Give where you Live.




The real work of United Way-Seeing is Believing

“I was shocked to discover how many people are falling through the cracks…you just assume there’s a system in place for everyone”- Seeing is Believing participant, October 2017


It’s a question we hear quite often.  “How does United Way work?”

And we are more than happy to answer it.   Over the years we have found it to be very helpful to host “Seeing is Believing” tours.

These tours allow you to see, up close, the “on the ground” efforts underway to create a community where poverty has no power.

You’ll have the opportunity to speak with some of our agency partners on the work they do, and how their connection with United Way Waterloo Region Communities makes a real difference.    As well, you’ll be learning alongside other people, who are every bit as intrigued about how they can help the 1 in 10 people in our region who live beneath the low income threshold.

We run Seeing is Believing tours at all times of the year, and we would love to have you join us.   Our events are usually scheduled from 6 to 7:30 PM –a light dinner will be provided.

We’re working on a new schedule of Seeing is Believing tours.    We’ll have that out to you as soon as possible.


10 Reasons to support United Way this season

The period from Mid November through the end of the year is sometimes called “The Giving Season”

A recent survey by Imagine Canada indicates more than 60 per cent of people want to make a donation during this time of year.  

For many of us, giving now can be a powerful lesson for our kids….appreciating how fortunate they are, and sharing that good fortune with someone who perhaps does not have the same advantages.

There are a great many important and compelling causes.  We encourage you to support whichever organization speaks to your heart or is making the difference you want to see .

We would like you to consider United Way Waterloo Region Communities.

  1. Experience: For more than 75 years United Way has been helping the most vulnerable people in our communities.   Beginning with aiding soldier’s families in 1941, to today, where we touch every corner of the region, United Way has the partnerships, vision and expertise to give your donation its greatest impact.
  2. Collaboration:   Your donations work through the best and most passionate of the nonprofit organizations in our region. Listening to each of them, we can support programs and initiatives providing the help people need, when they most need it.
  3. We love where we live: Your donation stays in Waterloo Region funding programs at more than 40 agencies. Approximately 80 per cent of each dollar is distributed to help people right here.
  4. Transparency and Accountability:   We are registered with Canada Revenue Agency as a charitable organization, and subject to all their rules and regulations.   Our financial reports are available online and our office is just a phone call away.
  5. Big. But Focused:   We are the largest funder of social service programs outside of government. Nationally, United Way invests hundreds of  millions of dollars annually. Here at home, we are right in your backyard, funding programs such as Neighbourhood Matching Grants, which provides dollars to local residents trying to make a difference on their own street.
  6. Efficiency:   We work across a broad spectrum, raising funds for our partners, while taking part in discussions on how, and what to deliver in the way of programs. It’s an interconnected web of support providing real value
  7. Advocacy: United Way is a key partner in the recently released National Housing Strategy, and locally, we are part of big issue discussions ranging from Living Wage Waterloo Region, to the Children and Youth Planning Table, the Immigration Partnership, and Wellbeing Waterloo Region.
  8. This is Us:   1 in 10 people in Waterloo Region live in poverty.   They could be your friends, family or co-workers.   You know them. You just don’t know.
  9. We’re not looking for quick fixes: We are working for solutions. That’s why we reach out to government officials, agencies and more. That’s why we research, and apply what we learn to problems right here.
  10. Together, we are possibility:   No one organization can tackle our social issues alone. We know people in vulnerable situations often access multiple sources for help. We call it a “network of support” and that’s what your donations are building.

 Please consider supporting United Way Waterloo Region Communities.

Love where you live.  Give where you live

Your part in ending homelessness and poverty.

It covers 10 years, and will invest some 40 billion dollars, but the work is just beginning for the National Housing Strategy announced by the Federal government.

United Way Centraide Canada played a lead role in consultations on this strategy, backed up by the dozens of United Way agencies across the country, including United Way Waterloo Region communities.

Is there a more important building block for our lives, than a stable and safe place to live?

You might think the housing issue is embodied in the homeless people many of us have witnessed.

About 250 thousand people in Canada were listed as homeless in 2016, according to Canada Without Poverty.    But an estimated 3 million people are “precariously housed”—in simple terms…living in below standard, unaffordable, or overcrowded conditions.

Much closer to home. Waterloo Region is in many ways, ahead of the curve on the housing issue, but still, demand for affordable housing far exceeds the supply, meaning about three thousand people are on a waiting list.

A lot of money is to be invested by the federal government, the provinces and municipalities, and sometimes the political will to do that can be weakened.  But there is lots of evidence to support the belief stabilizing housing situations will reduce much of the spending being done on social issues.

Over the coming weeks, months, and indeed, years, United Way will be continuing to work  and advocate for the achievement of the goals stated in the National Housing Strategy.

What can you do?     Learn more about the National Housing Strategy, and the impact it could have.  Get involved….there are many groups in our region working on social issues, including United Way Waterloo Region Communities.    And advocate.  Like almost anything, if we want the people in our community to be stronger, and more self reliant, we have to work together.