When she’s selling hot dogs and candy floss at the United Way kick-off barbecue Sept. 25, U of G campaign co-chair Kim Best will be saying a personal thank you for the United Way agencies that have impacted her life.
She won’t be alone.
Many of the volunteers who run the University’s annual United Way campaign have a personal story about a family member, friend or neighbour who has benefitted from one of the 86 programs funded by the United Way Guelph Wellington Dufferin. That’s why they volunteer, says Best, who is the undergraduate secretary in the Department of Biomedical Sciences.
“When I’m working to help U of G and the City of Guelph reach their United Way goals, I’m also trying to create awareness of the services made possible by our giving. It’s comforting for all of us to know that there is somewhere to turn for help when we need it,” she says.
Her United Way co-chair is Rich Moccia, associate vice-president, research (strategic partnerships). He sees the United Way as a natural fit with the University’s culture of volunteerism and giving. “After living in Guelph for 42 years, I’ve seen how important it is for the University to be part of the larger community. Supporting the United Way is an honourable way to help change people’s lives and improve life for all.”
Best and Moccia invite everyone on campus to join them in Branion Plaza at noon Sept. 25 when the University’s United Way goal for 2014 will be announced by president Franco Vaccarino. The barbecue runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Music will be provided by singer/songwriter Christian Carlucci, a member of The Johnston Brothers rock ‘n’ roll band and a PhD candidate in molecular and cellular biology.
In practical terms, the United Way campaign is already underway, says Best. Volunteer co-ordinators and canvassers are distributing pledge forms to employees and retirees, and students were introduced to the United Way during Orientation Week and Project Serve Day.
This year’s student co-chairs are undergrads Remy Marlatt, marketing management, and Meghan Doherty, arts and science. Marlatt started her involvement with the United Way during a co-op placement in the organization’s central Guelph office; she is now in her second year as student co-chair.
“I really want to put my energy into building our community,” says Marlatt. “I love working with the different student groups. Everyone is so creative and I enjoy helping to facilitate their fundraising.”
“The United Way is such a fantastic organization,” adds Doherty, who is in her fifth year of volunteering. “There are many groups that look at social equity globally, which is important, but I love how the United Way focuses on local issues and supporting the people of Guelph Wellington.”
The backbone of the University’s United Way campaign rests on payroll deductions, but pledge forms can also be used for cash, cheque and credit card donations. When a donation is accompanied by a pledge form, the donor’s name will be entered in a series of weekly draws. Students can participate by downloading a form from the United Way website; a link from the U of G home page will be available after the kick-off.
Best encourages everyone to give early in the 10-week campaign to take advantage of the incentive draws. The first prize to be drawn Oct. 3 is a weekend pass to the 2015 Hillside Festival. Additional incentive prizes – about a dozen each week for five weeks – include homemade products donated by U of G staff, gift baskets and certificates from local businesses.
Pledge forms received in Revenue Control (University Centre, Level 3) by 3 p.m. Wednesdays will be entered in that Friday’s draw and all subsequent draws, including a grand-prize draw Dec. 5.
The grand prizes are a $500 RRSP from TD Canada Trust, a one-year parking pass from U of G Parking Services, free tuition for a U of G continuing education course, and one day’s use of a modern meeting space at Staples on Stone Road.
The website will also post upcoming United Way events. Two popular events to watch for are the family carnival sponsored by U of G labour groups, scheduled for Sept. 27, and the College Idol talent show to be held Oct. 31.
Moccia says United Way volunteers are pretty creative when it comes to organizing special events, but reminds us that those bake sales, raffles, chili lunches and guess-the-baby-pictures are more than just fundraising.
“They are team-building,” he says. “My core philosophy has always been about the team and creating the positive energy that comes from being a part of one. So my goal as a United Way volunteer is to support U of G’s proud culture of giving and, in the process, help to build a stronger sense of family and team within our University community.”
For Best, the University’s United Way campaign is the backdrop for learning more about the hidden heroes of our community. Her dedication to the United Way began when she was a teenager, when a car accident left her brother with serious head injuries and eventually led to his death. “Some of the agencies supported by the United Way helped my brother and my family,” she says. “Since then, I have been committed to the United Way and how it enables those agencies to reach out and help people.”