United Way president visits Fort McMurray

Dr. Nyman meets with community leaders and residents

By Kiran Malik-Khan, Connect Contributor

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United Way of Fort McMurray Executive Director Diane Shannon, President and CEO of United Way Centraide Canada and Assistant Deputy Chief of Emergency Management Chris Graham at Shell Place on July 20. Photo by United Way of Fort McMurray

“Thank you for inspiring me @FMUnitedWay! Courage abounds #ymmfire.”

UnitedWay_TwitterDr. Jacline Nyman’s parting tweet summed up her Fort McMurray visit well. The President and CEO of United Way Centraide Canada was in town on July 21, 2016 for a day-long visit, and toured the fire ravaged areas, as well as met with community leaders.

Dr. Nyman “leads a national movement for social change comprising over 100 community-based federated United Way organizations. With over 1000 staff, 200,000 volunteers and more than 1 million donors, United Ways and Centraides raise and invest over $550 million annually with and for Canadian communities,” according to her official bio.

Following a tour of The Redpoll Centre at Shell Place, Dr. Nyman went on a driving tour with Chris Graham, Assistant Deputy Chief, Emergency Management.

“This two-hour tour included stops in Stonecreek, Abasand, and Waterways. She was able to engage with members of the (local United Way’s) Workplace Campaign Chairs and the United Way board to round out the day. On Thursday morning, a pancake breakfast was held with social profit leaders, representatives from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo’s Recovery Committee, and the Canadian Red Cross. A media round table closed out her time in Fort McMurray,” shared Russell Thomas, Director of Communications & Community Impact for the United Way of Fort McMurray.

Particularly struck by the apparent randomness of the fire, Dr. Nyman likened Fort McMurray to a “war-torn city.”

“[The fire] was indiscriminate as a shooter. To see it with my own eyes was a seeing is believing tour of my own today,” she said, alluding to the social profit agency tours organized by the United Way for community members.

Resilience was the leitmotif running through her observations.

“Your community is extraordinary in spirit and visually so beautiful. I’m so sorry for the devastation this fire has brought. From a physical perspective I can see the damage, but I also see how, year after year, your United Way was succeeding; it is because of the passion of all of you that live here,” Dr. Nyman continued.

Speaking of what she took away from the tour, and the community, Thomas said, he “got the sense that she was struck with the natural beauty of the community, despite the ravages of the fire, and by the resilience that she witnessed from afar during the fire and the resilience that is being demonstrated now as we begin the rebuild.”

“It was an honour to host the national leader of the United Way movement in our community,” shared Diane Shannon, Executive Director, United Way of Fort McMurray.

“Nothing can replace an in-person visit to build understanding about a disaster of this scope and scale. Dr. Nyman was able to hear directly from community leaders and families directly affected. Juxtaposed against images from our driving tour, the stories punctuate the human cost of what has become the costliest disaster in Canadian history,” Shannon noted.

At the media roundtable, Dr. Nyman talked about the United Way movement and how partner organizations stepped in to help during those first few days after the fire to build a microsite to garner donations.

“Staff members in Ottawa, as an example, worked through the weekend and late into the night to make sure that we had the United for Fort McMurray website up and running within four days of the evacuation,” she shared.

“What struck me about Dr. Nyman was how eloquent, down-to-earth and insightful she was. We were honoured to have her with us. She was incredibly empathetic and seemed to fully grasp what we were going through,” Thomas added.

United Way of Fort McMurray is leading rebuilding efforts following the May 3 wildfires that ravaged the city causing over 80,000 people to evacuate; and amassing a cost of $3.58 Billion.

To donate, visit: https://www.unitedforfortmcmurray.ca/donate

– Connect Weekly –