Key volunteers with the U of G United Way campaign are, from left: Rhonda Alger, who provides administrative support for the fundraising team, and co-chairs Vanessa Young, Jennifer Beehler and Prof. Alan Sullivan.

Imagine that, every day you come to campus, you drop a loonie into a jar on your desk. You probably wouldn’t miss the dollar, and, at the end of a year, you’d have a tidy little sum to spend on something worthwhile ─ like the United Way.

In the process, you’d become an “Everyday Hero,” as defined by the three people who co-chair this year’s U of G United Way campaign: Jennifer Beehler, secretary to the chair of Clinical Studies; Prof. Alan Sullivan, Plant Agriculture; and fourth-year commerce student Vanessa Young.  They are leading the campus toward its $500,000 fundraising goal.

“We hope the campus will become a sea of everyday heroes,” says Sullivan, “people who give what they can just to be part of the important work that is supported by the United Way. And it’s so easy. No need to find a money jar, just fill out the payroll deduction form handed to you by your department’s United Way canvasser.”

Payroll forms are also available on the United Way campus website:

Even if you prefer to donate by cheque or cash, adds Beehler, you can use the form to ensure your name is entered in the weekly draw for incentive prizes. The draw is open to everyone: staff, students, faculty and retirees. “You could win a bottle of wine, a home-baked dessert or a gift certificate donated by a U of G staff member or a local merchant.”

In addition, everyone who returns a pledge form with their donation is eligible for a grand-prize draw to be made the first week of December. The prizes are a TD Canada Trust $500 RRSP, a $500 shopping spree at Stone Road Mall and a one-year U of G parking pass.

Beehler and Sullivan are long-time United Way donors and volunteers within their departments, but she’s completing her third year as a campus co-chair and he’s beginning his first. Young volunteered to lead the student campaign after working last year with the head office in downtown Guelph. Her co-op position was supported by the University administration as an annual contribution. This year, third-year marketing student Greg Deleemans is working with the United Way of Guelph and Wellington.

What drives their volunteerism?

Sullivan says: “The annual fundraising campaign helps the University community be part of the larger Guelph community, and the United Way does such great work across many organizations in Wellington County.”

Beehler sees direct results of that great work in the life of a close friend whose autistic children benefit from community programs supported by the United Way. “Our community needs that kind of financial support, and as a personal benefit, I get to work with a wonderful group of volunteers on campus. They are inspiring and excited about helping others, and I want to be part of that.”

For Young, it’s a way to help her hometown and get involved in student life on campus.

“It’s an amazing experience helping out in the community I grew up in,” she says. “The United Way focuses on helping local people, and anyone can benefit from the agencies it supports ― poor, wealthy, children, teens, elderly. The United Way can help everyone.”

She adds that student volunteers hope to make a $5,000 contribution to the University campaign. The Department of Athletics will support the student effort by donating $1 for every ticket sold at the Oct. 16 football game. The Gryphons play the Windsor Lancers at 1 p.m. in Alumni Stadium; tickets are $5 for students, $10 adults, $8 seniors.

Other United Way events planned to support the campus campaign include a 1950s dance to be held Oct. 22 at the Brass Taps and organized by the Provost’s Office; the University Idol competition Oct. 28 sponsored by the Office of Research; and a card-making course to be held Nov. 1 by the Department of Geography. Visit the United Way website for details.

The website also provides regular updates on donations ─ the total raised to date is $177,299 ─  and you can follow Beehler’s United Way tweets or link to the county-wide United Way campaign site.