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This year’s holiday campaign is especially urgent: United Way

Waterloo Region Communities (UWWRC) is looking to give the gift of hope during these precarious times through its annual festive tradition, the ‘Holiday Giving Campaign’. The program aims to provide financial assistance and support for those struggling within the community, which is needed now more than ever. 

“It began when I assumed the role of the CEO of an integrated United Way between Cambridge-North Dumfries, Wilmot-Wellesley-Woolwich, and Kitchener-Waterloo. We decided that we needed to have enthusiasm around the concept of holiday giving and just how important it was to help our communities and to recognize what our communities actually need in terms of support, including our rural communities,” said CEO Joan Fisk of the initiative that began three years ago.

How the campaign works are funds are donated to the UWWRC and then distributed to organizations throughout the region that support prevalent issues in the region and in the communities. This year donations can be made via the not-for-profit’s website, and the donor can choose which fund their generosity will go towards. Donations are also being matched this year by an anonymous group up to $25,000.  

United Way CEO Joan Fisk

Some 25 organizations directly benefit from the local chapter’s efforts, including in the townships of Woolwich and Wellesley, Community Care Concepts, Woolwich Community Counselling Centre, and organizations that work in part with the communities such as the Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region.

Services in the township have been “inundated with need, especially in relation to mental health… we are supporting and doing the best we can to get as much extra help in as the demand is way over the capacity,” she said, suggesting that those in rural areas may feel even more isolated than usual, and struggle to reach out for the resources and assistance that exist to serve them. 

The initiative has developed over the years that it has been operating. The pandemic has highlighted areas that need help in Waterloo Region.

“It’s been a year like no other,” Fisk says, noting the impacts of lockdowns and the pandemic have made the campaign in the highest level of demand it has seen. “This year’s campaign is almost an emergency; we really need to help our community.

“We’ve been doing mass distribution, through health and public health. We’ve been working on helping our communities because poverty is often hidden. And it’s a bit embarrassing. And people have found themselves in a position where they never have been before-especially [those] in the accommodation industry, tourism industry, restaurant industry. I mean, I could just go on and on. … We’re there to help to pick up the pieces. And this year, we really, really, really need help. More people are affected in ways they never anticipated. They’re going to brunch. And we’re sorted to really provide basic support.”

Donations to the campaign can be made at www.uwaywrc.ca.

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