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United Way kicks off 2018 campaign with massive show of 'local love'

With the goal of fighting local poverty, the $110M fundraising goal is the largest of the newly merged organization that includes York, Toronto and Peel
20180927 UWGT kickoff KC
CHATS outreach coordinator Roza Baci leads seniors in a morning stretch as part of the United Way Greater Toronto's 2018 fundraising campaign kickoff today. Hundreds of volunteers were at 26 United Way agencies to demonstrate caring in action.

It’s hard not to feel the love today as hundreds of workplace volunteers descended in tandem on 26 United Way Greater Toronto-funded agencies to help serve meals, mentor newcomers and spend time with isolated seniors.

The “fiercely local” kickoff of United Way’s 2018 campaign carries with it an unprecedented fundraising goal of $110 million to fight local poverty and help those most in need in York Region, Peel Region and Toronto. Last year, the largest, non-governmental funder made a record-setting $105-million investment in local charities. It’s also one-quarter of the way toward its Uprising of Care goal, which hopes to engage one million people to get involved in making their community a better place in simple ways such as volunteering.

“In less than a year, more than 250,000 have joined the Uprising,” United Way Greater Toronto president and CEO Daniele Zanotti said in an interview. “People care about their community, they’re re-engaging and they want to know about how local love is playing out.”

At today's campaign kickoff at CHATS in Woodbridge, a United Way-funded community outreach program that provides support and services to seniors so they can live independently, it was almost business as usual. Volunteers from the City of Vaughan and United Way were on hand as the day’s exercises began for program participants.

CHATS programming is delivered three days a week within the same building in which seniors are living independently. Residents can take part in exercise classes, a lunch every Tuesday, knitting club, simple games and bingo on Fridays.

“The social isolation (of seniors) is something that can be a challenge, and can contribute to depression and chronic illness,” said CHATS CEO Christina Bisanz, who is also a Newmarket councillor. “Our focus is on the well-being and health of our clients. There’s a social engagement focus, as well, to help seniors become more informed and engaged.”

The program’s content is bilingual, in English and Italian, plus there are two other outreach initiatives serving seniors of Iranian and Russian backgrounds.

Bisanz said the local impact can been seen in the results of its client surveys, taken before and after participation in the program.

“We ask about their feelings of self-worth, of self-esteem, and at the beginning, the ratings are quite low,” said Bisanz. “After the program that changes. They say they feel more self-confident and more a part of their community.”

United Way Greater Toronto supports the following York Region agencies and programs with locations, in-home or itinerant programming in Newmarket:

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of York
  • Blue Door Shelters
  • Canadian Hearing Society
  • Canadian Mental Health Association, York and South Simcoe
  • Cedar Centre
  • CNIB
  • Community Living Newmarket/Aurora District
  • Family Services York Region (FSYR)
  • Girls Incorporated of York Region
  • Job Skills
  • John Howard Society of York Region
  • Literacy Council York-Simcoe
  • March of Dimes Canada
  • Sandgate, Women's Shelter of York Region Inc.
  • The AIDS Committee of York Region
  • The York Centre for Children, Youth and Families
  • Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC)
  • York Region Food Network

In a statement issued today, Zanotti said: “Increasingly, the issues facing the GTA know no municipal boundaries. Our shared solutions shouldn’t either. The need for a helping hand close to home is true across our region. While our first campaign as United Way Greater Toronto – working with communities in Peel, Toronto and York Region – is our biggest, it’s also really, really small. Because it’s about giving back, connecting with each other and working with community – from Mississauga to Midtown to Markham. Together, we’re fighting local poverty in all its forms.”

To learn more about how you can get involved, visit United Way Greater Toronto


Kim Champion

About the Author: Kim Champion

Kim Champion is a veteran journalist and editor who covers Newmarket and issues that impact York Region.
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