CBS Dean: Personal Experience Showed Value of Supporting United Way

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This is part of an occasional series featuring members of the University of Guelph community explaining, in their own words, why they support the United Way. The University of Guelph has raised more than $518,000 toward its goal of “$600,000 and beyond” for this year’s United Way campaign.

“Why I Give to the United Way”

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Jonathan Newman

Jonathan Newman, Dean, College of Biological Science

My partner, Georgia Mason, a professor in Animal Biosciences, and I were both lucky in the circumstances of our births and of our upbringings. We grew up in safe neighbourhoods, with good schools, and our families supported us through our secondary education.  As we moved through our careers and found ourselves in a position to help financially, we chose to support charities that shared our values for social justice and human rights.

As immigrants to Canada, we didn’t feel particularly connected to the country or our community.  Canada didn’t seem to us to be a country in need of our philanthropic support, so we gave mostly to support people and communities in the developing world, and to support disaster relief in countries that could not take care of themselves.  And we continue to do so.

But about six years ago, we experienced difficulty with our son.  As a teenager, he went through some difficult times, and this was hard on our family.  I started attending a parent support group, and here I encountered many people in need of community support.  I also was exposed to a range of community support organizations, many of which are run entirely on philanthropic support.  While my family and I did not need to make use of these supports, I saw just how crucial they were to many of the parents and their children who were members of my support group. And this led Georgia and me to realize that, despite how well off Canada is as a country, there are still many in our local communities who need our help.  And so, because of the fantastic work they do in our community, we have made the United Way a part of our philanthropic strategy.

Gwen Chapman, Dean of the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences

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Gwen Chapman

I give to the United Way because it is a simple and effective way of supporting the community that I live in.

In every community, there are vulnerable people who struggle with poverty, social isolation, disabilities, mental health or other contexts that challenge their ability to succeed and thrive.  I have been privileged in my life to not have those struggles.

By giving to the United Way, I am helping to provide financial support to a wide variety of Guelph-based programs that directly help people who live in Guelph who are in need. I don’t have to worry about deciding to support one program over another, or assessing the value and legitimacy of a program – I know that my donation will go toward a range of programs, and that the United Way has done all the work of vetting the programs. I appreciate that the agencies and programs do not have to put as much of their limited resources into direct appeals and can benefit from the collective United Way process, energy and fundraising skill.

I am a newcomer to Guelph, and the United Way has really helped me to learn about the many programs in this community that are working to improve the lives of others who live here. Finally, I support the United Way because I love the community building that comes along with United Way fundraisers, and love how easy it is for me to support United Way through payroll deductions.

Rene Van Acker, Dean of the Ontario Agricultural College

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Rene Van Acker

I give to the United Way because I believe strongly in responding to opportunities to provide help to my community.

This is easy to say but can be hard to do, especially when there are so many areas where people in my community need help.

The United Way makes it easy to help in this regard because they are one agency that distributes funding to a great variety of people who need it. The United Way also makes it easy to give, especially through payroll deduction.

Given all that the United Way does to help me give to people in my community who need help — how can I not give?

 Jenna Hennessy, Internal Communications Co-ordinator, Communications and Public Affairs

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Jenna Hennessy

My grandmother was a very delicate but fiercely independent woman. She lived in an apartment in London for much of my life, and I loved visiting her, riding the elevators in her building and taking our regular trips to Dairy Queen together. She knew the names of everyone behind the counter and they knew hers.

As she entered her late 80s, it became clear that living on her own was no longer an option. The stove would get left on. Trips to the grocery store were tiring and confusing. The stacks of books she kept by her couch were becoming a tripping hazard.

She moved to Orillia and settled into my old bedroom in my parents’ home. Things were fine at first, but my mom quickly started feeling the strain. Mom was working a full-time job but also had to worry about my grandma’s safety during the day and her overall mental health. For grandma, it was lonely living in a different city without her friends and familiar surroundings. She was becoming withdrawn and needing more and more of my mom’s attention after a long workday.

My mom found a United Way-sponsored program in Orillia that provided a social environment for my grandma. That program helped keep my grandma sharp and engaged in her final years. It gave her a routine and something to look forward to. It gave her gossip to share over dinner at home. It was a lifesaver for my mom who could cope better knowing my grandma was happy and that someone was watching out for her during the day.

I donate to the United Way in Guelph and in Orillia because I’ve seen first-hand how those types of community services improve the quality of life for so many people. I do it not just for my grandma but for other people’s grandmas, too.