United Way announces $8M as Community Campaign target

By KIRAN MALIK-KHAN, Connect Contributor

The 2015 United Way of Fort McMurray Community Campaign kicked off with hundreds of supporters at Shell Place. PHOTO: Greg Halinda.

The 2015 United Way of Fort McMurray Community Campaign kicked off with hundreds of supporters at Shell Place. PHOTO: Greg Halinda.

Time to get your red on. The United Way of Fort McMurray kicked off its annual community campaign on September 9, 2015 with a goal of $8M. The celebration including the ribbon cutting of the Redpoll Centre was held in the Ballroom at Shell Place.

With 26 social profit agencies, and 70 programs to support, the United Way has a goal to “improve lives through education, social innovation, and by engaging our community, giving our agencies the tools to succeed,” as per the official website.

Well-known community leader, and philanthropist, Marty Giles welcomed a house full of guests who saw the number lit up upon entering the breakfast event, as opposed to a countdown reveal in the past years.

“You are probably wondering why that $8,000,000 is up there. We wanted to make the point that this is not a campaign about a target; this is a campaign about meeting community needs. This number represents that need and that is our focus,” said Giles, who owns North Star Lincoln Ford in town, and is on the United Way Board.

Russell Thomas, Director, Communications and Community Impact, United Way, explains, this year’s community kick-off was extra special because it included a ribbon-cutting, and tours of the Redpoll Centre, United Way’s new home, and a social profit hub for many agencies.

“In addition to taking the annual campaign portrait – all the workplace teams, agencies, volunteers and community leaders tossing their scarves up in the air – we had a performance by Stu Marchand, the winner of last year’s “Change Starts Here” song writing contest,” says Thomas.

The event, he adds, is important to the community on several levels.

“The kick-off sets the context and momentum for the campaign. Especially in this low oil price environment, we need to inspire understanding about the needs that exist in the community. The money we raise during the Community Campaign provides essential funding to agencies and programs that are on the front lines of helping children, families and seniors.”

“The kick-off sets the context and momentum for the campaign. Especially in this low oil price environment, we need to inspire understanding about the needs that exist in the community. The money we raise during the Community Campaign provides essential funding to agencies and programs that are on the front lines of helping children, families and seniors.”

With a new motto: #WearePossibility, the 10-week campaign will be based on the announced goal. Last year, United Way raised $8.18 million, surpassing their goal of $8M. Nevertheless, Thomas shares, the dollar amount is not the key.

“We are really trying to focus on the needs in the community, as opposed to putting emphasis on the fundraising target. We have a significant challenge in front of us to raise the money to meet the demands. Together, we can do it. Together, #WeArePossibility.”

Diane Shannon, Executive Director, United Way of Fort McMurray, agrees, adding, the kick-off is always about rallying together.

“The Community Campaign kick-off is an important time when the community comes together to rally around an important idea that we have a collective responsibility to look after one another and support agencies that provide support and services to those who need it. The kick-off sets the tone for the campaign and is a great way to become part of the movement of caring and compassion that really is part of the fabric of life in Wood Buffalo,” she explained.

As for being at the Redpoll Centre, Thomas noted the move has benefited the group, and other agencies.

“The Redpoll Centre is currently home to The United Way of Fort McMurray and 15 other organizations, a mix of sports/recreation, cultural, arts and social profit groups.  We have a limited amount of space still available for lease and continue to engage with multiple groups about the benefits of working in a collaborative non-profit office setting.  Response from our current residents has been wonderful. They love the space and the opportunity to connect and collaborate with other like-minded organizations.”

“The physical space is amazing, with lots of natural light, ergonomically designed work stations, and functional and friendly common spaces. The most remarkable thing is that you get to become part of a community of people working in the community benefit sector. Each day we see organizations within the centre talking with each other, exchanging ideas, exploring ways of working together, and helping one another.  In the short time we have been at The Redpoll Centre at Shell Place, our community of organizations has been strengthened; more broadly, the community has been strengthened.”

Founded in 1978, The United Way of Fort McMurray was established by Mary-Anne Warren. She took out a loan to start the group, which invests funds back into the community in four areas: Strong Communities, All That Kids Can Be, From Poverty to Possibility, and Capacity Building.

Visit: http://www.fmunitedway.com for details, and follow them on Twitter @FMUnitedWay for real time updates, and to learn about upcoming events.