United Way aims to have bigger impact on community; declines to set campaign goal

The drum roll was noticeably absent on Thursday when the United Way of Central Alberta announced its fundraising target for 2014.

The drum roll was noticeably absent on Thursday when the United Way of Central Alberta announced its fundraising target for 2014.

That’s because there was no specific dollar amount — just the intent to raise money to make an even bigger impact for people in need in Central Alberta.

“We have not identified a precise number for our goal. We didn’t want to limit our possibilities. We didn’t want to put a cap on them because every year we raise money and every year the gap between what we raise and what we need is still there. Our goal this year is to close that gap, to come closer and closer,” said campaign co-chair Lynne Mulder at the annual campaign kickoff luncheon held at the Sheraton Hotel on Thursday.

The 2013 campaign surpassed $2.2 million, a first for the United Way of Central Alberta.

“Rather than just looking at the money we raise, we want to make sure we have a bigger impact on our community,” Mulder said.

Robert Mitchell, United Way CEO, said the idea is to get away from focusing on a rising mercury in the fundraising thermometer and instead focusing on the lives that United Way-funded agencies help.

He said stories about those Central Albertans will be a bigger part of this year’s campaign.

Fundraising updates will still be announced, but the United Way decided to “take the lid off” their goal to see what happens, Mitchell said.

Wanda Lawrence, 53, is among the Central Albertans whose lives have changed with the assistance of the United Way.

Growing up, Lawrence said she believed that nobody helps those who are sexually abused.

“It’s something you just accept. You endure. You shut up and keep it to yourself. But I learned at the (Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre) that it’s not acceptable. We can talk about it and we can reveal secrets that we kept buried within. Those secrets hurt us when we keep them inside. We need to talk about them and there has to be a safe place to do that,” said Lawrence, who spoke to the luncheon crowd of about 350 people.

“United Way funds the sexual assault centre and I am so grateful from the bottom of my heart for all of the donations and support,” Lawrence said.

Scott Raabis, 31, said he was hospitalized multiple times for schizophrenia and was even homeless before treatment turned his life around.

He said Central Alberta’s Safe Harbour Society for Health and Housing was there for him when he was homeless. The Canadian Mental Health Association and the local chapter of the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta have also been there to help.

Now he’s a performer with the local comedy troupe Bull Skit thanks to the stability he’s achieved.

“I can actually talk to my doctor about schizophrenia and be proactive,” Raabis said.

So far, $231,000 has been donated to the 2014 United Way campaign.

Fundraising campaign co-chair Dustin Sundby said it’s the most money that’s ever been raised on the first day of a campaign.

“Our community has so many needs and it’s impossible for the government to properly support those needs. Us, as community stakeholders, need to make up that difference and supporting the United Way is the way to do it,” Sundby said.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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