United Way shifts 2015 campaign focus

By RUSSELL THOMAS, United Way of Fort McMurray

Volunteers from the Golden Years Society served up breakfast at United Way of Fort McMurray’s 2015 Community Campaign kickoff event on September 9 at Shell Place. PHOTO: Greg Halinda.

Volunteers from the Golden Years Society served up breakfast at United Way of Fort McMurray’s 2015 Community Campaign kickoff event on September 9 at Shell Place. PHOTO: Greg Halinda.

About three months ago, Marty Giles, 2015 United Way of Fort McMurray Community Campaign Chair, sat around a room with a group of volunteer workplace campaign chairs. These are the folks who lead volunteer teams at a broad range of companies who go out and ask for pledges on behalf of the United Way.

The conversation eventually turned toward the notion of looking at giving to the United Way through the perspective of “That could be me”.

During these challenging economic times, more individuals and families are in situations where they might need to call on the assistance of a United Way funded agency. In fact, these social profit organizations fully expect that demands on their programs and services are going to continue escalating in the months ahead.

It was the brainchild of one of the workplace campaign chairs to use the “That could be me” slogan in the campaign video for 2015.

“Not only does it speak to the possibility that you or I or the neighbour down the street might need the help of an agency,” began Marty Giles, “it also speaks to the thousands of people who donate every year. The person who gives at the Leader Level – $1,200 or higher – well, that could be me, too.”

The video, produced by Wood Buffalo Productions, was released during the Community Campaign Kick-Off Breakfast on September 9, 2015 at Shell Place.


Unlike most years, the campaign goal was up on the screen as over 250 guests arrived for breakfast. While set at $8,000,000, the same target as in 2014, the focus is less about the number and more about the impact.

“This campaign is about meeting the needs in the community,” said Giles. “Our members agencies are going to be looking for support and the United Way needs to be there for them.”

Despite the lower oil price and an economy that has gone from a rolling boil to a soft simmer, optimism is high. Campaign teams from oil sands companies and local businesses are organizing fundraising events, training canvassers and focusing on sharing powerful stories about lives that get changed every day by the agencies who get funding thanks to the Community Campaign.

“Whether it is that oil sands worker who went from having everything to having nothing, or that family struggling to cope with the stresses of marital discord, or that youth needing dependable adult mentorship; our member agencies are on the ground twenty-four seven providing a broad range of services and programs,” said Diane Shannon, Executive Director, The United Way of Fort McMurray.

The Community Campaign runs from now until November 13, 2015. Fundraisers are not only being planned by workplace campaigns, but by the agencies themselves.

“Our twenty-six agencies roll up their sleeves and help out with the campaign every year,” said Shannon. “This is an all-hands-on-deck community effort, with a strong focus on meeting community needs. Wood Buffalo has proven, time and again, that it rises to the challenge. We don’t doubt for a second that generosity will be in abundance over the next ten weeks.”

“Our twenty-six agencies roll up their sleeves and help out with the campaign every year,” said Shannon. “This is an all-hands-on-deck community effort, with a strong focus on meeting community needs. Wood Buffalo has proven, time and again, that it rises to the challenge. We don’t doubt for a second that generosity will be in abundance over the next ten weeks.”

To get the full room of workplace campaign volunteers, agencies, and community leaders revved up, Stu Marchand performed his original composition of “Change Starts Here”.

“I love it so much,” said Shannon. “That song beautifully captures the heart of the United Way Community Campaign in a way that resonates here in Wood Buffalo, just as much as it would in Powell River, BC or Antigonish, Nova Scotia. What a great way to kick off the campaign.”

Almost everyone came to the stage to participate in the annual portrait. After a countdown from ten, red and white scarves were tossed into the air and the 2015 United Way Community Campaign was officially underway.

– Connect Weekly –