Inspiring stories of people that have been helped and a challenge to help more were shared at the kickoff breakfast Friday morning at Woodgrove Centre for United Way Central and Northern Vancouver Island, UWCNVI.
One of those stories was shared by Kathy Holmes of Nanaimo Family Life, who described the Better at Home program that has helped seniors in Nanaimo.
“In 16 months we’ve helped 322 seniors in our community,” says Holmes. “I had a really tough time choosing the best stories.”
She says the one she chose was an elderly polish man who had been in and out of hospital for kidney dialysis.
The last time he was in hospital he had a series of falls resulting in brain damage and when Holmes says his sallow eyes and disfigured mouth, she saw a tear run down his cheek.
“I reached over and wiped the tear from his eye,” she told the crowd of 300 gathered at Woodgrove’s food court.
“In the sacredness of that room I bore witness to his last smile, says Holmes. “Because of the funding of the United Way, he didn’t die alone. Together we make people matter.”
Bruce Williams, emcee for the breakfast who is also chair of the Victoria United Way campaign, says the campaign’s slogan, “Together we are possibility,” shows how many people are helped by programs funded through the United Way.
“See, that’s what we’re talking about. Think about the programs the money benefits. Think if the money wasn’t there,” says Williams.
“The United Way not only supports the people in need right now but the work of the organizations helps to make that need go away.”
He says the Victoria campaign has raised $6 million and challenged Nanaimo supporters to beat Victoria on a per capita basis.
UWCNVI executive director Signy Madden also challenged the crowd of supporters to meet or beat this year’s goal of a million in 12 weeks.
Madden says the UWCNVI has added 50 new programs such as an after school program at Georgia Avenue elementary and a Home to Homes program at Nanaimo Women’s Centre that provides furniture and other supplies for homeless to get what they need in one place.
She mentioned one homeless man who was proud to be able to leave the streets and be able to pay his own rent thanks to the help of the United Way.
“He expected to die on the streets in a ravine,” says Madden. “every day we get to hear these stories because of your support.”
Madden also thanked a number of corporate supporters and workplace donors who have donations taken off their paycheques to support the United Way.