Central Albertans pulled together during a trying year and raised $2,145,640 during the United Way of Central Alberta’s 2016 fundraising campaign.
The money will help fund about 45 community programs in 2017 in three priority areas — education to help kids, income to move people from poverty, and wellness to build healthy communities.
Campaign co-chair Ken Johnston said Central Albertans should pat themselves on the back.
“It was all about the heart this year. This year the community’s heart was just beating broader and bigger than ever and that’s why we’re so excited to celebrate this today. Just an incredible, incredible year,” Johnston said at the United Way’s Community Celebration Breakfast held at Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites in Gasoline Alley on Friday morning.
Donations fell about $119,000 compared to the 2015 campaign.
But United Way CEO Robert Mitchell said people were still very generous. They realized that during difficult economic times the demand goes up for agencies the United Way supports.
“Our main contributors knew it was going to be a tough year and I think they dug a little deeper. That’s helped the campaign tremendously,” Mitchell said.
Top three fundraisers were NOVA Chemicals with $747,745, DOW/MEGlobal with $141,342, and Alberta Health Services contributed $69,947.
He said the amount raised will allow the United Way to try and maintain support at the same level as last year. Some cutbacks will be necessary, but reserves will help.
“That’s what reserves are for. You dip into them when you need to. This is a year we will need to. Hopefully as the economy picks up, 2017 will be a good year.”
Campaign co-chair Craig Curtis said he knew Central Albertans would raise the money needed to meet the region’s needs.
“New people came in and dropped off cheques, dropped off donations, even when they were smaller ones and that helped bring it up to a total that we were very proud of,” Curtis said.
He said as a result, 1,985 children were supported in after-school programs, 165 people were housed, 384 children had the opportunity to develop skills to be successful, and 8,342 people were assisted to live independently.
“We had over 2,000 provided supports to manage through a crisis, and 994 people were helped to find employment, including 188 immigrants. So there is a broad range of help for every sector of the community,” Curtis said.
Jodi Bell and her daughter Tia Fitzpatrick, 13, spoke at the breakfast about how United Way-funded programs have helped them.
Fitzpatrick said her family is very supportive, but her mentor with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program means a lot to her.
“It’s nice to have someone there for you outside of the house because you know that’s their choice to be there for you,” the teen said.
The Community Celebration Breakfast was presented in partnership with Collins Barrow and Holiday Inn.