The United Way in Nanaimo is embarking on its annual fundraising campaign to try to help people whose personal challenges have only been worsened by the pandemic.
The local United Way chapter announced in June it was merging with five other chapters to form United Way B.C., but this fall’s fundraising campaign will benefit the local agencies the United Way supports in and around Nanaimo.
While the merger resulted in better access to “research capacity” and resources, Signy Madden, Central and Northern Vancouver Island regional director, said the pandemic has put a strain on non-profits in the area and the need is still huge. COVID-19 has affected all demographics, according to Madden, with more stress and emotional mental health issues for children and youths, feelings of isolation and depression for seniors and issues of food security.
Madden said United Way moved away from front-line food provision because there were other agencies, such as food banks, doing that work.
“But because of COVID, we really had to step up to fund food baskets and food programs and that was huge and it still is. We’re still funding a lot of baseline stuff around food,” she said. “I had hoped we’d now, a year and a half in, when people were going back to work, that we wouldn’t have to be in that food-security piece, but we are.”
COVID-19 has not been kind to charitable organizations either, said Madden, compounding the situation. She said some non-profits “haven’t done very well” through the pandemic and United Way has helped resource those agencies so they could survive.
“I think there’s been more conversation and more assistance needed across the non-profit sector,” Madden said. “A lot of non-profits have been here for years. Well, some of them just closed the doors because they couldn’t operate without either the funding or the volunteers.”
According to a press release, United Way B.C. anticipates offering assistance to 24,500 people in need on the Island this year, via 53 agencies operating 78 programs, with more than 35,000 people accessing 116 “high-impact programs” through 73 agencies in the central Island area.
After raising $1.2 million last year, the local United Way’s goal is to raise $1.3 million this year.
“Trust me, we need the money…” said Madden. “If you give in Port Alberni or Nanaimo, Ladysmith, it goes specifically to an agency there.”
For more information, or to donate, go to www.uwcnvi.ca.