United Way helps to make communities healthier and more vibrant

It's a simple message with the community at the focus: Change starts here.

THE COMOX VALLEY Therapeutic Riding Society is one of the many local groups that benefit from United Way funding.

It’s a simple message with the community at the focus: change starts here.

The United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island’s (UWCNVI) mandate is to bring people and resources together to create solutions that impact the community, making it healthier and more vibrant.

For new executive director Signy Madden, this means a focus on programs specifically targeting youth, families and seniors, a message she emphasized at the kickoff of their campaign earlier this month.

“We’re already funding 11 partner agencies so we need to continue to raise money and continue to fund social programs in the Comox Valley,” she noted. “We all know that the need in huge; anti-bullying programs, suicide prevention, helping vulnerable seniors, those are the programs our great partner agencies are already funding.”

She added their goal is to raise $225,000 in this area alone.

Brad Bayly, community development co-ordinator, explained the United Way of today is shifting its focus to place more emphasis on addressing the underlying causes of social problems.

“We work to effect long term changes that can be sustained and that make a measurable difference in the community — a difference we can demonstrate,” he explained.

“Community impact begins with identifying the social issues most important to community. It’s about preventing issues from happening so that fewer individuals and families find themselves in difficulty in the first place.”

Their proactive approach appreciates that no one organization can address the root causes by themselves.

“There are no single or simple solutions to the issues,” Bayly added. “To address them, requires a concerted and collaborative community effort to ensure that systems, policies and behaviours are aimed at preventing  issues and creating solutions for the those that exist.”

Bayly said the United Way bases its funding decisions upon local impact councils that represent the local community.

“These individuals are our specialists that each focus on representing a specific area of social services or issue faced by our community.”

The UWCNV has been helping people in the North Island since 1958, and has evolved from a fundraiser to a community development organization which facilitates collaboration and partnerships.

The United Way of Canada – Centraide Canada (UWC-CC) began in 1939 during the Great Depression, when the Community Chests and Councils division of the Canadian Welfare Council was formed.

The organizations’ membership later recognized the opportunity to make enduring change by taking a broader approach to social policy and development.

In 1972, an independent corporate structure was established, and in 1975 came a name change to its present title.

UWC-CC is one of a handful of comprehensive community organizations in North America, with the national body representing a movement of 119 local United Ways – Centraides across the country.

Bayly noted the United Way is a unique entity because it focuses on the local community but carries a national knowledge base.

“The issues each community faces are quite similar across the country, but each have their own unique struggles and challenges. United Way solves these issues by utilizing the collaboration of local support with a worldwide brand.”

Bayly said the United Way’s strength comes from collaboration.

“We want to be indispensable when it comes (to that),” he said. “We want to create a stronger community so that they can do things on their own.”

Some of the community partners in the Comox Valley include the Boys & Girls Club of Central Vancouver Island, the Canadian Red Cross, Central Island Crisis Society, Comox Valley Therapeutic Riding Society, Stepping Stones Recovery House for Women Society and Comox Valley Senior Peer Counselling.

Bayley added all of the money raised in the Comox Valley stays in the Comox Valley.

“United Way is always there; we’re always in the background.”

To donate to the UWCNVI, visit www.uwcnvi.ca or call 250-338-1151. Crown Isle is also fundraising for the organization with its 11th annual Winefest on Nov. 3. from 6 to 9 p.m., with ticket proceeds going to the United Way. Tickets are $65 and can be purchased at the front desk or by calling 250-703-5000.

photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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