With two community-minded and dedicated individuals in place as co-chairs the United Way Oxford campaign is in excellent shape to both meet its fundraising goals while spreading the word about the organization’s important work.
Megan Porter, owner/operator of Boston Pizza Woodstock and Dan Henry, program director/announcer at 104.7 Heart FM, say they are eager to support the current campaign, communicate with the general public and work alongside United Way volunteers throughout Oxford County.
“I’ve been involved with United Way on the fringes for a few years through my business,” says Megan. “I was approached to take on the role of co-chair and I was deeply honoured. This is a great opportunity to be involved in a hands-on fashion, rather than just being a supporter. It’s a fascinating learning experience seeing how it works from the inside, meeting people and understanding the mandate more fully.
“The biggest plus is meeting those individuals whose lives have been changed for the better because of the United Way. I’ve been involved in other volunteer work over the years but this role with United Way is really opening my eyes to the needs in our community and how United Way invests to have impact.”
The opportunities are equally appealing for Dan.
“I’ve always been a big supporter of the United Way,” he said. “It’s an incredibly fulfilling way to give back to the community while at the same time learning much more about United Way.
“This is my second year co-chairing the campaign before but I am delighted to give everything I can to the job. United Way Oxford is an amazing organization that has given so much to the community and will do so in the years to come. Lives have changed and I feel privileged to be part of the current campaign.”
Campaign manager Shelley Lachapelle said what they were looking for in co-chairs were people who were community champions with a passion for making a difference, supporting causes that strengthen Oxford County and the investment of their time and efforts.
“Our co-chairs demonstrate strong leadership skills chairing the voluntary campaign cabinet, which currently stands at about 10 members. They have shown both support and encouragement, to be out there and willing to give the gift of time to make a difference in people’s lives. Megan and Dan are those kinds of people.”
The campaign is multi-faceted, comprised of such elements as workplace campaigns, individual, corporate and organizational donations, events that are both fun and ultimately impact individuals’ lives and voluntary contributions of time.
Three key signature events are:
1) The student stair climb, now into its 12th year and involving more than 800 passionate secondary students taking part in a fun, healthy activity that supports the betterment of the community’s social fabric. Since its inception this event has raised more than $170,000
2) The steadily growing and very popular online auction during the first week of December is now marking its fourth year. Volunteers secure a wide range of items – from VIA Rail tickets and memorabilia to restaurant vouchers and things big and small – from generous community donors.
3) Introduced last year the hands-on U Dodge tournament for those 18 and older, promotes both fun and healthy living, and is set to be held in April.
“Last year there were more 600 volunteers taking part in United Way activities,” said Megan. “They donate their time to spread the word about what United Way does and the differences it makes in so many lives.
“The message gets out through kitchen table conversations and workplace presentations. We want the whole community to know what we do, where the dollars go and the differences that are made.”
Dan adds, “There are many ways as United Way ambassadors to get involved, making visits to corporate donors and looking for those willing to give time to help everyone. It’s a message that parents can pass along to their children - participation brings a sense of pride and it makes an ultimately positive change.”
“A business doesn’t have to be large with hundreds of employees,” said Shelley. “Big and small, private and public organizations all play major roles in our campaign. There are simple ways to contribute, things that can be completed in less than a day, some sort of an event or just payroll deductions.”
The co-chairs pointed to a variety of innovative ways businesses and individuals have contributed to the United Way, including barbecues, car shows, bake shows, dress-down days at work and coffee/cookie sales.
Dan said some organizations – companies, service groups, medical associations and unions – set up committees designed to assist the United Way.
“You can contact us and we will help develop a start-up plan,” said Megan. “You don’t have to be part of a giant company to participate. The contribution can be something that works within the culture of your workplace. It’s all about the volunteer efforts and passion of people out there – like you and me. Awareness comes from all of us working together.”
For Dan, Megan, Shelley, one of the keys is to demonstrate that United Way Oxford’s work is year round, not just a fundraising campaign held between September and December.
“Our goal this year is to raise $1.2-million but it’s not just about money,” said Shelley. “It’s the work we do all year. We’re not raising money for the sake of money. It’s about the investment made in our community that provides opportunities for bettering lives.
“It’s great to write a cheque but in the end it’s where the money goes and what impact it has on others’ lives that truly makes the difference.”
This is the second in a six part series exploring the people, goals and exciting changes in the current United Way Oxford fundraising campaign.