One-on-One. It can all start with you

As far as I know, each of us is given one life to live. How we choose to write our life story is entirely up to us. Have you thought about what legacy you want to leave behind? Or what kind of impact you would like to have on the people that cross your path on this journey? Some might think that in this ocean of humanity, what impact can one person make? Let me tell you a story that a staff member at a downtown youth drop-in center told me a few years ago.

One evening a young man came in right after the center opened. It was unusual for that young man. When the counselor asked him why he was so early that night, he shrugged his shoulders and mumbled something to the effect that he just did not want to miss any of his friends. The staff member asked if it was alright to sit with him while he waited. The teen did not seem to care, so he sat down with him. Conversation was all one-sided. The teen didn’t really want to engage at all. After 20 minutes or so, the teen was starting to open up when the topic of his favorite sport – hockey, came up. As the conversation continued, the counselor found out that the teen had just ran away from home after a huge fight with his mother and that was not the first time. He was disgusted with life and felt the need to get away from it all. The counselor spent the next two hours with this boy and showed him the love and kindness that a caring adult could provide. At the end of that long chat, the young man agreed to go back home and try some of the advice that the counselor had given him to improve the relationship with his mother. The counselor never saw that young men again until a few years later when they ran into each other at the mall. The young man was doing great, graduated from high school, got a job and was now living on his own. Then he said he had a confession to make. He told the counselor the reason he was there that evening at the drop-in center, was to say goodbye to his friends. He had made up his mind that he was going to take his life that evening. But that conversation with the counselor touched his heart and changed his mind. He found there was at least one person that cared about his well-being.

How amazing is that! Not all of us will become the prime minister or have some significant invention that saves the world. But all of us have the ability to make a positive impact in someone’s life. Whether it is a kind word spoken or a random act of kindness or delivering a much-needed food basket. No matter how small you think it might be, you may never know how big an impact you have just made on the other person’s life if you make the effort.

Do you feel like you want to do something but just don’t know where to start? United Way is just the place for you. Thousands of volunteers across this country of ours do whatever they are able to help make their communities a better place for their fellow citizens, one good deed at a time. This is the power of United Way! When a group of like-minded individuals, working together, are driven by an unquenchable passion and a compelling vision, they can start a movement. When the movement gathers momentum, we start a revolution! Here at United Way, we are starting a revolution! Together, we will change the power of poverty! Come join us in this revolution and make a difference in your community.

The Giving Season: Generosity

November and December are a time of year when many of us feel more generous.   Figures indicate almost 40 per cent of charitable donations are made during these eight weeks—which means labeling this time period “The Giving Season” is completely justified.

A year ago, the Generosity Index shed some light on the giving habits of people, although it only measures the number of people claiming a tax receipt for their donation through Canada Revenue.    Those numbers continue to drop.

Not surprisingly many of the non profit organizations which see an upsurge in donations at this time of year are speaking directly to our hearts.   Making sure every child has a warm coat, or every family has something for their holiday season is a concern most of us share.

On November 28, organizations across the country will be taking part in Giving Tuesday    Following Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, it’s an opportunity for everyone to step back, and consider how an investment in non profit work can also be an important part of the holiday season.

While it’s a national movement, Giving Tuesday has a very local aspect to it as well.

Dozens of local agencies will be signed on looking for your support.   And as much as donations are always important, giving of yourself, and your time has a value as well.    Many organizations will welcome your skills—-even if you’re not sure what they are!   And that experience will likely be quite valuable for you.

This year, United Way Waterloo Region Communities is focused on changing the power of poverty…to put it simply, we’re working for the financial stability, health and education of every person in our community.

Please check out the Giving Tuesday information, and if you can, please donate.

Carving For a Cause

Kara Klypycz is all about the pumpkins.

Well, not all…..she’s also devoted to helping out United Way.    Kara has been busy the last couple of weeks carving 150 pumpkins for her annual Halloween display.  It’s a family affair as her husband and two kids ready their home  on Dellgrove Circle in Cambridge for the lineup of people who will take a few minutes to look over her work.  Kara describes herself as a “Halloween Enthusiast” and she’s also a United Way Waterloo Region Communities supporter.    Donations collected on the site of her massive display go directly to United Way.   She’s particularly happy with focus to “Change the Power of Poverty

“There’s no reason for children to be suffering in a community such as this” says Kara, who also works as a substitute teacher.

Her pumpkin carving begins, not surprisingly well ahead of Halloween, but the work actually starts considerably sooner.   This year, she’s opted for a more traditional, perhaps “ghoulish” theme, mixed in with some Wizard of Oz reminders.

“It was my son who suggested that change” she says.  Last years display carried and “Under the Sea” theme.

Kara’s efforts have garnered a significant amount of media attention….   The Cambridge Times   published a story today, and CBC KW had Kara on Thursday morning to carve a couple of pumpkins live on air, while streaming the video.

Next week she’s also scheduled to appear on CTV Kitchener’s 5 pm news!

We really can’t thank Kara and her family enough for their efforts.   It’s only through the dedication of people like her United Way can gather the funds it needs to make real change in the community.  Poverty is far too big an issue for one organization.  That’s why United Way works with a variety of partners to build a network of support which ensures people can access the help they need…..when they need it.

You can donate to Kara’s cause online or better yet, come out to Dellgrove Circle on Tuesday evening.  We’ll be live streaming from the site, and also available to answer your questions.



Crunch Time for a National Housing Strategy

The Federal Government is expected to release its first National Housing Strategy in the next few weeks.

United Way Centraide Canada has been a strong supporter of the National Housing Collaborative, which is working toward housing affordability as well as increasing housing supply, and the protection of social housing.

United Way is already preparing for the release of the National Housing Strategy, advocating for the creation of a National Housing Benefit, to be used to address the gap between rent—and household budgets.  A United Way policy paper on such a benefit can be read right here

Housing is a key part of the poverty puzzle.   Stable shelter provides a base from which people gain security, and can move on toward tackling other issues.   United Way provides a network support for people who are living in a low income situation—exacerbated by the rising cost of finding somewhere to live.

As we move toward the release of this government strategy, it’s important to understand the issue, and some of the history it has in Canada

As we all know, there is no magic potion to solve the social problems our neighbours, friends and colleagues face.   And we know, by working together we can make progress toward the goal of changing the power of poverty.      Advocating for real steps forward on these issues is an important part of the work United Way does, both locally, and on a nationwide basis.   Across Canada, United Way is involved in more than 5 thousand communities, investing half a billion dollars toward finding those solutions.


One Day. One Goal

October 17th is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.   It’s a day which goes back three decades, from the original proclamation in Paris, France

On the 17th of October 1987, defenders of human and civil rights from every continent gathered on this plaza. They paid homage to the victims of hunger, ignorance and violence. They affirmed their conviction that human misery is not inevitable. They pledged their solidarity with all people who, throughout the world, strive to eradicate extreme poverty. “Wherever men and women are condemned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights be respected is our solemn duty.” Father Joseph Wresinski

“Human misery is not inevitable”

Those words should echo with us as we look around our own region.   1 in 10 people in Waterloo Region live in poverty.    The issue is in our  cities  ,towns,villages and rural areas

Last month United Way Waterloo Region Communities began its discussion on how to “change the power of poverty”

That power manifests itself in many ways.   Families go hungry, individuals face incredible barriers to success, and children are left behind.

To some degree, poverty can be invisible in the region.   While we might notice the person on the street looking for help, the vast majority of those struggling are out of our line of sight.    There are 50 thousand people in Waterloo Region walking against the power of poverty.

And it may not be as far away personally as you think.   A recent survey from the Canadian Payroll Association found 50 per cent of us are living paycheck to paycheck.    Many are just a serious illness, accident, or layoff away from having to choose which bill gets paid.

Some say it will cost too much to eradicate poverty. But research indicates there are significant long term savings

Your donations to United Way help provide the building blocks people need to take a step forward.   Perhaps those donations will provide an after school program for a child who needs a boost in self esteem to improve their educational standing.   Maybe it supplies a single mother with the tools she needs to improve her skills, and move into a better career.

No matter how that donation goes to work, you’ll know it’s taking away some of the power of poverty.

This issue is far too complex for one organization.  United Way is uniquely positioned as an agent of change working with a variety of partners, and sitting in on numerous tables to bring a collaborative approach.     With the concerted effort of donors, partners, agencies and volunteers we can make a difference.

Across Canada, United Way has a prescence in more than 5 thousand communities, investing more than a half billion dollars in providing people with the help they need.

We need your help.   To learn more about the work of United Way follow this link




Mental Health and Poverty

Today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day. The focus this year is on mental health in the workplace

United Way Waterloo Region Communities partners with the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington as part of the network of support which ensures people have the building blocks necessary to stabilize and improve their lives   As well we work alongside other partners who are on the front lines of providing service including KW Counselling    Carizon and many more.   Given the pervasive nature of mental health issues, its not surprising to learn many of our supported agencies are dealing with this topic on a daily basis.

So, what’s the connection between poverty, and mental health?  This article might answer many of your questions.

The discussion over mental health has changed in the past few years.   There are more efforts to take away the stigma and search for solutions.  An article earlier this year in The Globe and Mail provides some food for thought.

We know there is no single solution for many of society’s ills.  We understand today’s problems are complex and require a co-ordinated, collaborative approach to making a difference.   That’s the unique placement of United Way.   We are working across many different partners, and sitting at a variety of tables in search of advantages and efficiencies which will ultimately help people in need.

This year we are campaigning to raise 7 million dollars to invest in services aimed at taking away the “power of poverty”   With your help, those investments  will play a part in giving people the support they require.

Please help.


A Community comes together: Change the Power of Poverty

Thanks to the Waterloo Record Community Partnership program, and a generous sponsorship from Manulife, we have been able to post a full page message about
“Changing the Power of Poverty” You can see the full size ad here

Poverty does have a tremendous power over a large number of people in our region.   1 in 10 people here are living in poverty.    Poverty has significant real costs to our system, from health care, counseling and policing issues to the very real danger of limiting the opportunities of individuals, children and families to lead a sustainable life.

Poverty touches so much of what happens in our communities.   And as a community, we will not make a difference unless we are all prepared to commit our resources to the issue.

That’s why United Way is working to raise 7 million dollars over the next year to co-ordinate with our partners and agencies on initiatives designed to reduce that power.    We certainly can’t do it alone.   Along with our Campaign Cabinet, and Board members we have hundreds of volunteers who work every to amplify our message, and work to change the power of poverty.

But we need a concerted effort from everyone to make that happen.  Please donate to United Way, and let’s change the power of poverty.   You can make a difference.

Poverty-What can you do?

This is a growing region but what good is all this growth and advancement if we leave people behind in the process? In Waterloo Region, 1 out of 10 people live in poverty.

Poverty has power over people’s lives.

It causes isolation, food insecurity, poor health (both physical and mental), and ultimately it denies us wellbeing.

The power of poverty affects families, seniors, children and youth, people with disabilities, and individuals.

And the issue of poverty has a lot of myths around it.  The Region of Waterloo has an excellent document dispelling some of those, you can read it right here

Poverty does not discriminate.

Sometimes poverty is circumstantial – a spouse becomes seriously ill and can no longer work, a family falls apart, or you lose your job because of downsizing.

Sometimes it is more systemic – vulnerable youth don’t graduate from high school and lack the tools needed to be successful adults, seniors living at home are isolated.

Your community needs your help to take that power away—to change the power of poverty. To change the lives of families, children, and individuals in your community.

No one person or one organization can change the power of poverty alone. It’s about building up the community so that people of all ages have the building blocks they need to succeed. We need to work together to make this change. None of it can happen without your support.

United Way is looking to raise 7 million dollars for this fight. And we need your help.

Change the Power of Poverty: Kickoff 2017

“This is unacceptable”

United Way CEO Joan Fisk challenges the community.

September 22, 2017 (Waterloo Region)

The first campaign by United Way Waterloo Region Communities is underway with a simple message from new CEO Joan Fisk.

“We need to change the power of poverty” says Fisk.

“In an area known for its collaboration and innovation” she adds “why are almost 50 thousand people living in low income situations?”

Poverty can destroy families, limit futures, and tear at our social fabric.

“It is holding back far too many people from participating in the full wealth of this community” says Fisk, “and it needs to be our first priority”

United Way Waterloo Region Communities is in a unique position to be the agent of change.   Through our seats at many tables, and our collaboration with a vast range of partners we are ensuring people have the building blocks they need to succeed.

In order to achieve this goal, United Way is looking to gather 7 million dollars to support people in every corner of the region.

“It’s time to step up” says Fisk “We need to rise to our biggest challenge. It’s time to love where you live and work together to change the power of poverty”

Big Brother, Big Sister Month: How We Help

United Way Waterloo Region Communities partners with Big Brothers, Big Sisters to provide experiences to children and youth which help them on their way to adulthood.  Supporting youth allows them to build self esteem, and social skills which enhance their learning. 

Meet Bradley!

Making a difference in the community begins with a thought, and that thought becomes something that can make a BIG impact.

Such was the story of Bradley’s dedication to the community. From the very beginning, Bradley wanted to actively serve and devote his time and energy to others.

Bradley was raised in Toronto, Ontario, and he eventually moved to Kitchener in the year 2008, where he worked as a firefighter for over a decade. However, Bradley wasn’t the only member in his family who lived to serve the community; his cousin was a previous volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Waterloo Region, serving as a Big Sister within the program (BBBSWR).

Bradley was inspired; he immediately held interest in following in his cousin’s footsteps! Soon, he was volunteering for Big Bunch, a recreation based group mentoring program.

He found joy, friendship, solidarity, and opportunity to make a difference throughout his volunteering.

“There’s so much camaraderie  among all the mentors…”, he explained, “It’s a great way to get to know people and meet other people in the area.”

Like many others, Bradley wanted to put his free time to good use, and he felt that being a Mentor within Big Brothers Big Sisters was the best way to do so. Mentoring can bring so much value and meaning in everyone’s lives; those who are the mentors, and those who are being mentored. It is a method for guiding, supporting, and befriending people at any given moment.

“It’s nice to see them eventually become comfortable in a group setting,”, he recalled fondly, “…at the beginning they might be shy, but, by the end of the session that same kid will be telling you which radio station to turn the radio to.”

Nothing could be said more about the joys of having someone open up to you, while you also open up to them, in return.

When asked what he enjoyed most about being a mentor for children, he said:

“It really reminds you of growing up. It’s a great excuse to act like a kid again.”

Aside from giving back to the community, many new volunteers can gain a fresh, new set of skills! These skills can range from: problem-solving, organizational skills, leadership skills, analytical skills, and working as a team.

Bradley’s advice for those interested in volunteering is that even if you don’t know what to expect, you shouldn’t let that hold you back! Give it a shot and explore your options. The commitment varies from program-to-program, so you’re sure to find something that fits into your schedule.

“It may seem intimidating but once you get there you just kind of figure it out. Brad, the program coordinator, is a ton of help, he emails us before each session and gives us the schedule. He responds to emails quickly and you can ask him anything. You get so many materials; the whole structure is already there for you.”

Bradley’s been a Big Bunch volunteer for over 3 years, he’s currently volunteering in the Tuesday session. You could join Bradley in the Big Bunch program and help make a difference in the lives of local youth. Imagine what they could become because of you.