A few weeks ago, United Way Elgin Middlesex announced its ChangeMakers Award winners for 2021 to recognize those volunteers who have gone above and beyond. I am very pleased to extend congratulations to Gabriela Wellswho was named as Outstanding Workplace Champion by United Way. Gabriela, previously on staff at Catholic Central, this year she is one of our virtual teachers at St. Josephine Bakhita. Gabriela has for the past decade lead the United Way Campaign at Catholic Central High School. Congratulations Gabriela and thank you!
I take this opportunity to thank as well to all our United Way Leads for their invaluable work and generosity coordinating our UW drives in each of our schools. To all our staff who through personal donations and fundraising initiatives donated to United Way – THANK YOU!
Below is but one example of the valuable work undertaken by United Way Elgin Middlesex during this pandemic year.
“When schools closed, in-school nutrition programs closed too. United Way made connections to keep food and basic needs flowing.
Samia Osman loved coming to Neighbourhood Resident’s Association of Westminster Park (NRAWP) programs with her five kids. It was here at the Optimist Club portable nestled between two public schools that they got a healthy breakfast, did fun activities, made crafts and learned how to cook.
When the provincial lockdown closed schools and other public buildings, NRAWP had to close too. Suddenly, Osman’s anchor to the community and the safety net that helped her family stretch their food budget, was gone.
“We all felt so sad. My kids loved coming here,” says Osman. “I loved volunteering here too. It made me feel good inside doing something for the community.”
As soon as the pandemic hit, programs across the region faced the same challenge: how to get food safely to hungry kids and families.
The Ontario Student Nutrition Program (OSNP) was one of them. Without in-school classes, they had no way to feed kids at more than 489 schools across Southwestern Ontario. Last year alone, the program served over 18 million breakfasts and snacks to 113,641 students. As program coordinator for OSNP in London, VON Middlesex Elgin needed community partners with deep roots in local communities.
United Way was in a perfect position to help. As the largest non-government funder of social services in our region, they connected VON to the Child and Youth Network and partner agencies like South London Neighbourhood Resource Centre (SLNRC) and to programs like NRAWP. Within four weeks, OSNP funds were flowing to innovative emergency food programs anchored in neighbourhoods, not buildings.
“Thanks to United Way and the support of the community, we were able to support 6,811 children and youth and 3,850 adults with food hampers and grocery cards during the school closures,” says Charlotte McDonald, Community Development Coordinator.
“These hampers gave people the supplies they needed to bridge a difficult time, and the grocery cards gave families the dignity to choose.”
“It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”