Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff                                As they sell 50/50 tickets, Tony Sowan, left, and Lock Loughrin of Zed 98.9 Radio in Red Deer take a selfie at the launch of the Central Alberta United Way campaign at the Sheraton Hotel on Thursday.

Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff As they sell 50/50 tickets, Tony Sowan, left, and Lock Loughrin of Zed 98.9 Radio in Red Deer take a selfie at the launch of the Central Alberta United Way campaign at the Sheraton Hotel on Thursday.

United Way set sights high, despite tough times

United Way of Central Alberta wants people to focus on possibilities.

By Susan Zielisnki

Advocate Staff

United Way of Central Alberta wants people to focus on possibilities as it begins its 2016 fundraising campaign to help improve the quality of people’s lives.

Last year the annual four-month campaign raised $2,264,934 and impacted 18,000 children and adults who accessed programs at community agencies funded by the United Way.

Campaign co-chair Craig Curtis said the United Way now faces a “catch-22.” The majority of funding comes from workplace campaigns but some companies and businesses have had to lay people off as the economic storm rages on.

He said unemployment brings a whole host of possible issues — housing, child care, and even domestic problems. But the United Way can help with the assistance of dollars from Central Albertans.

“United Way needs us more than ever and the United Way is best equipped to have the biggest impact on the most people in Central Alberta now who need it most,” said Curtis to a crowd of about 500 people at the United Way’s luncheon at Sheraton Red Deer Hotel on Thursday to kick off the 51st campaign.

He said there are still companies that continue to thrive and prosper in hard times and some of them were at the luncheon because they do care.

A total of $199,542 has already been raised for the Jumpstart Program to launch the 2016 campaign. Contributors were Alberta Health Services, Scotiabank, CIBC, MNP, Royal Bank, Dow MEGlobal, Shell Canada, Imperial Oil, the City of Red Deer, Bunch Projects and Proform.

Campaign co-chair Ken Johnston said despite the economic reality, Jumpstart raised only $1,000 less than in 2015 and that is remarkable.

“There are many of us that are hurting. There are many of us that can’t give as much as we did last year. But there are in this room a group of folks I believe, and in Central Alberta, a group that can and will,” Johnston said.

United Way of Central Alberta supports over 40 programs and services in three priority areas — education to help kids, income to move people from poverty, and wellness to build healthy communities.

The luncheon was presented by Johnston Ming Manning in partnership with Sheraton Red Deer Hotel.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com