A Virtual Affair: Our United Way campaign across campus throughout October

United Way Campaign Banner.

Published in the Daily Bulletin on Friday, October 30, 2020

A message from the United Way Campaign.

This year, we've had some creative events taking place throughout our virtual campus to spread awareness and raise funds for our local United Way. We want to send a big thank you to all our supporters for your amazing efforts so far.

Just a few of our ambassador events

  • Engineering’s Mystery Silent Auction: For the past several years our Engineering department has run a virtual silent auction where staff and faculty bid on wrapped items from a series of generous donors.
  • March of the Deans 2020 Auction: For the past four years, all of the Faculty Deans have banded together, dressed up in amazing group costumes and marched into Senate mid-October to raise awareness for United Way! This act has reinvigorated the leadership team to continue their efforts of fundraising for United Way on campus. This year, our six deans dressed up in support of the United Way as Star Trek characters and we are auctioning off some of their amazing props to raise money for the campaign. To place a bid follow this link: https://uwaterloo.ca/united-way/march-deans-auction
  • The Library Market: At the end of the month, the UWaterloo Library team is putting together a virtual market featuring many of their own bakers, artists, and makers.  
  • Writing and Communication Centre’s Silent Auction: An auction with a variety of crafts, snacks, and services delivered by the WCC staff.
  • Legal and Immigration Services is holding it’s second annual United Way Silent Auction. The auction is open now and runs until November 25 at 1:00 p.m.
  • The Secretariat is holding its United Way Silent Auction. The auction is open now and runs until November 20 at 4:00 p.m.
  • Advancement Airways: This year the Office of Advancement offered a passport to their staff to have access to a series of virtual activities, such as yoga, trivia, and an art night.
  • St. Paul’s Teams Auction & Virtual Trivia: On Monday, St. Paul’s first-ever virtual silent action closed where staff and faculty bid on generous items and services from small local businesses. They will also be running a spooky Halloween-themed trivia.

A Souper meal kit

This week many campus supporters picked up soup meal kits from UW Food Services, in which a portion of the purchase price of the kit will be donated to United Way.

Chef Mark Meinzinger demonstrates cooking while on a Zoom call.

On Thursday evening, those who purchased kits were able to join a virtual cooking class, featuring Chef Mark Meinzinger. It was both entertaining and informative. Mark sure helped make our butternut soup look and taste amazing.

As we’re approaching the end of October, there’s still time to give – whether that be through virtual cross-campus events, by purchasing a United Way bundle box where 100 per cent of the proceeds will go towards the campaign, or by making an individual donation through E-Pledge.

Together, we can help build a stronger community.

United Way Charitable Spotlight: KW Counselling

KW Counselling Services Logo

Adapting to change swiftly by offering virtual counselling services

Published in the Daily Bulletin on Monday, October 26, 2020

By: Nora Emtesali, United Way Campaign Coordinator

KW Counselling Services is a multi-service agency in Waterloo Region, providing therapeutic counselling services to individuals, couples, and families. In 2019 alone, they provided 13,896 hours of counselling to 5,818 clients; meaning this service is in high demand.  

What does KW Counselling Services do for Waterloo Region? 

During an interview with Scott Williams, the Communications and Development Coordinator at KW Counselling Services, he explained how his organization provides a large variety of programs to our community - such as their seasonal Parenting with Passion courses and workshops, their OK2BME program for LGBTQ2+ youth, and even providing businesses with cultural competency training, as well as training on LGBTQ2+ issues and crisis management. 

The Parenting with Passion program has been running courses and seminars for many years, helping parents to find and embrace the delights of raising their children, with positive parent attitudes and healthy parent-child relationships. Every year they continue to improve their courses to ensure they're as relevant as possible. Scott explains, “each season we provide a different slate of multi-week courses, full-day seminars, or single evening workshops,” which adds to the demand for KW Counselling’s services. Over 400 people attended the Parenting with Passion workshops in 2019.  

Their OK2BME public education program is designed to help combat homo/bi/transphobia. To accomplish this, KW Counselling Services offers a course of advanced clinical fundamentals for health care professionals who work with LGBTQ2+ individuals. They also consult with businesses to enhance inclusivity within their organization.  

The Cessation of In-Person Counselling, due to COVID-19, and the Swift Move to Virtual Services: 

The pandemic has affected KW Counselling Services, as it has many organizations. With COVID-19 impacting their in-person counselling services, KW Counselling’s staff had to quickly move to virtual counselling, with unique privacy and security concerns that needed to be addressed. All of their staff required laptops (with cameras) and a private space in their home, to work with their clients. Further, most parenting courses have been reduced to single sessions administered virtually.  Some traditional in-person counselling services were able to resume, on a limited basis, in August. This ensures those who have unique situations that make virtual sessions impossible are still able to access the therapy they need. Counselling is an essential service in many lives. 

Ensuring a safe and positive future in the lives of our community members: 

KW Counselling's Fundraising EventEvery day Scott hears stories about the positive impacts counselling has made on the lives of people they serve. They recently worked with a woman and her daughter who had experienced domestic violence. She received counselling and was connectied to other local resources for assistance to help work towards a safe and positive future moving forward. They also recently worked with a transgender teenager, helping them and their parents through counselling, as well as engaging them with OK2BME’s youth group program. Now, they have a growing social support network, and parents who are able to help them on their gender journey.  

United Way’s Impact:  

KW Counselling's United Way Umbrella MarchKW Counselling Services all began with a grant from United Way (at the time was KW Federated Charities) in 1950. “In the last 70 years, United Way has sometimes been our largest funding source” Scott explains. KW Counselling’s services are offered on a sliding scale based on income and no one is turned away based on their inability to pay. Thanks to United Way’s funding they provide counselling to some of the most vulnerable people in Waterloo Region, who might not otherwise be able to access these supports. To add, only 35% of KW Counselling Services’ annual budget comes from government sources and the other 65% comes from fundraising efforts, grants they apply for, and the United Way. Scott continues,  

“By supporting United Way Waterloo Region Communities, individuals and families are saying that they care about mental health. Mental health IS health, and without the community’s support we would not be able to help as many people as we do each year. Counselling saves lives, and helps to improve relationships and families.” 

They still need your help in order to ensure these programs are funded and their staff is paid to provide these incredible services. A gift of any amount will help make a difference.

Click the link to donate, and make a difference: https://uwaterloo.ca/united-way/how-donate  

For any questions please e-mail: united.way@uwaterloo.ca  

Bundle up for our United Way campaign

United Way Campaign packages and soup kits.

Published on the Daily Bulletin in Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A message from the United Way Campaign.

A few weeks ago, we launched our first virtual United Way campaign. Thank you to everyone who has donated thus far. Your generosity is making an impact in our community.  

If you are still looking for ways to give to the campaign this year, we have an amazing collaboration with the W Store. Through their online store, you can purchase: 

  • a United Way bundle box, containing one United Way tote bag, one United Way mask, one United Way water bottle, and two United Way hand sanitizers. 100 per cent of proceeds goes towards the campaign.
  • Soup meal kits, which are available for pickup on Wednesday October 28 and Thursday October 29 at Fed Hall. You may also wish to join our live virtual cooking class led by Chef Mark Meinzinger on Thursday October 29 from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. 35 per cent of the proceeds of each kit will be donated to United Way.

You can also donate up to $20 to the campaignhassle-free through the W Store.

Every little bit counts. Together we can build a stronger Waterloo Region.  

Around the World with United Way and Advancement

We might not be able to share food together or travel, but that won't stop us from making a trip around the world (from home), enjoying some delicious food, fun and fitness - and of course, supporting the United Way!Passport

Introducing the Office of Advancement Passport. This is your all access pass to all United Way activities, prizes and treats. This passport is available for a suggested purchase price of $15 (or contribute what you can). Please complete the form below to receive instructions on making an e-transfer. 

Click the link to participate: https://uwaterloo.ca/alumni/around-world-united-way-and-advancement

President Hamdullahpur Kicks off United Way's Virtual Campaign

On September 29, President and Vice-Chancellor Feridun Hamdullahpur kicked off our campaign, with CEO of United Way Waterloo Region Communities Joan Fisk, and our co-chairs Alice Raynard and Jennifer Dean. If you were not able to make it, no worries! Here is the recording of our 2020 virtual kickoff event:

2020 United Way campaign off to a great start

A video call with a number of people dressed in Red for the United Way.

Published on the Daily Bulletin on Monday, October 5, 2020

A message from the University of Waterloo United Way campaign team.

Last Thursday our annual United Way campaign launched, and although this year was unusual, given our new virtual reality, we had people all across campus support the  campaign by ‘Going Red’ in fun and unique ways!

From red-decked out pets , to virtual groups celebrating by wearing red, we continued our tradition of enthusiasm and dedication towards our local United Way!

To everyone who participated, thank you! Your inspiration will carry our campaign to a strong finish.

How you can stay involved during this year’s campaign

  • Make an impact in the community by donating via payroll deduction or credit card through United Way’s online donation portal!
  • Purchase a United Way bundle box, containing one United Way tote bag, one United Way mask, one United Way water bottle, and two United Way hand sanitizers.
  • Join our virtual cooking class on October 29 by purchasing a soup meal kit in partnership with UW Food Services.
  • Looking for ways to donate your special event revenue that you usually carry around for United Way bake sales? You can now donate up to $20 to the campaign hassle-free through the W Store.

Getting ready for our annual campaign event: the March of the Deans

Every year, around October, you will see our six Deans dressed in costumes, parading around campus to raise awareness for the United Way and celebrate the participation of Waterloo’s Executive Council.

This year we have a few clues to keep you guessing what the Dean’s have planned this year…

  1. Captain, oh my Captain… but which one?
  2. When linguistics meets sociology meets quantum physics meets warfare meets philosophy...
  3. Logic can lead to errors.

Since we cannot congregate to march alongside out Dean’s in person this year, you’re invited to register for an online viewing of the march on October 19 at 3:30 p.m. as the Dean’s take on senate! Registration will be open this week.

If you have any guesses about this year’s costumes, or questions about the campaign, please email our team at united.way@uwaterloo.ca.

Are you RED-y? The United Way campaign starts today

 a tote bag, water bottle, and cloth mask.

Published in the Daily Bulletin on Thursday, October 1, 2020

A message from the United Way campaign.

Every year, our campus community comes together for the month of October to have some fun and help us support the United Way Waterloo Region Communities. Normally we’d be announcing GO RED day with our usual decorated campus, but this year it’s a bit different.

On Tuesday, President and Vice-Chancellor Feridun Hamdullahpur kicked off our campaign, with many of our volunteer ambassadors, donors, and committee members, in our first virtual event. It was an amazing success, with speakers from the House of Friendship, the United Way, and the President himself talking about the vital importance of this campaign. It was inspirational to hear about how your support helps to bring healing, counselling, and hope to many vulnerable citizens within our community. It was an incredible reminder that we can bring about real change with this campaign.

Go Red Day is here, and in this more virtual world, we’re challenging everyone who wants to participate in the campaign to decorate their office, their pet, their spouse….anyone and anything you can turn into a red-wrapped inspiration of fun and philanthropy (and send those pictures to united.way@uwaterloo.ca for a chance to be featured in our next Daily Bulletin).

Also, we’re offering an amazing United Way Bundle Box that’ll keep you safe while you motivate others to make a donation. The Bundle Box, available at the W Store, contains one United Way tote bag, one United Way mask, one United Way water bottle, and two United Way hand sanitizers.

And, while we can’t gather in person for another successful United Way Souper Day, we’re bringing the soup to you. In partnership with UW Food Services, we’ll be selling Butternut Squash Soup Meal Kits, with all necessary ingredients, for you to make and enjoy our famous soup at home. It’s a great way to warm up this October while supporting the United Way Campaign. With your purchase, you’ll not only receive a meal kit, but you’ll also be able to join a live virtual cooking class led by Chef Mark Meinzinger. You’ll learn about the ingredients being used, variations on the soup, and about some of the great food security initiatives supported by the United Way.

Make sure you check out campus-wide events as they are posted throughout October, or connect with your area’s ambassador to find out what they have planned. We’re expecting some pretty creative ways to get involved this year, as we’re challenged with not all being on campus. The United Way committee is certain that our campus will rise to the challenge, donate and participate to help our community, and make this the best campaign year yet.

Please note these donations (including the Go Red Box and Meal kit) are not eligible for donation receipts.

Volunteer Action Centre creates the Pandemic Response Volunteer Program

Three VAC volunteers stand outside, and one is holding a piece of artwork.

Published on the Daily Bulletin in Wednesday, September 23, 2020

A message from the United Way Campaign Committee.

Our region’s volunteer hub, the Volunteer Action Centre (VAC), is a charitable agency supported by the United Way (as well as our region and cities). It provides a broad range of services for over 150 not-for-profit organizations within our region, providing three main streams of services:

  1. Recruitment of volunteers for a range of charitable organizations
  2. Professional development for volunteer management staff
  3. Consultation and advocacy within the volunteer sector

“We essentially act like a job centre for volunteerism” says Jane Hennig, the Executive Director of VAC. Through their database, Volunteer Attract, (that happens to be developed by University of Waterloo alumni), they post a large variety of positions so that prospective volunteers can search for the many volunteer opportunities that exist in a convenient one-stop-shop.. The organization also works hard to promote volunteerism through social media, newsletters, advocacy, and speaking engagements.

The importance of volunteerism

Three volunteers behind an event table with VAC swag.With so much work to do within our community, and not enough payable hours to support initiatives of all organizations, it’s important to engage people to volunteer. In 2018 the Conference Board of Canada wrote a report called “The Value of Volunteering in Canada” where they determined that volunteers add significant value to our economy. Specifically, they contribute 2.6% of our GDP, and add billions of dollars to Canada’s work effort.

With this, Jane expressed that “a huge part of our Canadian economy is supported by volunteers”, that volunteers are essential to building our society and ensuring Canadian’s have access to essential services.

The Pandemic Response Volunteer Program

Like most of the world, “we’re learning how to deal with the pandemic on the fly” said Jane. “Although the region did have a pandemic plan, it was a bit outdated as it was developed during SARS, and needs within the community were changing rapidly”. To illustrate this, many elderly people were unable to leave their homes during the initial stages of our response to the pandemic, so food delivery services became an unexpected pressing need.

Since volunteers either administer programs or are needed by many services we have within the community, Jane and her team began working vigorously with the tri-cities and townships to best serve the needs of the community during these unprecedented times.

The Community Service Control Group formed and discussed the most pressing needs of the community. The group identified five different areas; food delivery, psycho-social-spiritual support, animal care, housing and homelessness, as well as family and children services. The VAC already had a centralized pool of fully vetted volunteers, who, based on priorities set by the working group, could move volunteers quickly and fluidly between organizations to meet their needs.  The Pandemic Response Volunteer Program emerged and VAC became the intake centre for regional volunteers. It’s a unique program, as volunteers usually aren’t shared between organizations.

Donations to the United Way helps volunteerism thrive within our community

VAC volunteers walking with umbrellas.United Way Waterloo Region and Communities have been supporting the Volunteer Action Centre for many years.  Recently, the United Way has been helping VAC build their corporate partnerships, developing popular programs for corporations themselves to volunteer within the community.  .

With your support of our United Way campaign, we can continue to help organizations like the Volunteer Action Centre create responsive programs that impact pressing community needs, while ensuring we continue to have engaged individuals and corporations contribute to the overall health of our region through volunteerism.

Are you the one who will help during these unusual times?

United Way Campaign: How to "Go Red" this year and read our 2019 Annual Report

Four videoconference participants wear red in support of United Way.Skip the dog in a flowing red dress.

Published on the Daily Bulletin on Thursday, September 17, 2020

A message from the University of Waterloo United Way campaign.

Campaign during a pandemic

Orientation has ended, classes have started, and there’s a slight nip in the air. Some things are the same as every year, but the campus certainly feels different. University life during a pandemic throws a lot of tradition into question. This is true for our annual United Way campaign. During the month of October, campus “goes red” to celebrate community, give thanks, and donate to our local United Way Waterloo Region Communities.

But what does “go red” look like during a pandemic? Like any tradition, the spirit remains the same. We want to see great events and creativity while we continue to strengthen our community. To that end, the United Way Campaign Committee has come up with some virtual ways you can get involved on October 1.

  • Decorate your home office in red, or decorate your pet, kid, or even your significant other and post it using #UWUnitedWay, or send it to our committee on October 1st through united.way@uwaterloo.ca for prizes. No donation or purchase is required to win. We might even feature you in our next Daily Bulletin update. Pro tips: Do some pre-Christmas decorating with your red decorations, or use all of those red clothes, jewlery, scarves, hats, and costumes sitting at the back of your closet.
  • Connect with your campaign ambassador to find out what exciting events might be in store for your area.
  • Check out our Go Red page on our website for news, events, and ways we’re all going red this year. And continue to check out the Daily Bulletin for any new promotions and ways to support our campaign throughout October.
  • And finally – don’t forget to donate. Our community needs your support now more than ever. Let’s make this year, despite a pandemic, our best year – one we can be proud of.

We’re looking forward to seeing how you GO RED for the United Way campaign.

United Way charitable spotlight: House of Friendship

Hotel staff and volunteers in PPE gear in a hallway.

Published on the Daily Bulletin in Monday, July 20, 2020

By Landon Jennings

Over the last few months, COVID-19 has affected people’s lives globally – whether that be through adjustments like working from home, losing jobs or income, not being able to hug family and friends, or battling new stresses and anxieties associated with uncertainty. For many, staying indoors and adjusting to a socially distanced life is challenging; but this new normal has disproportionately increased risks for the homeless members of our community.

The usual model of sheltering the homeless is not socially distanced at all: it involves placing several people in an open-air environment, in close proximity to one another, giving them a safe place to sleep and a warm meal to eat. In Waterloo Region alone, we are short 8,000 units of affordable housing, and 70 per ent of our homeless population are navigating mental health or addiction challenges that make stable sheltering a difficult reality.

Knowing that this model would not work during the pandemic, House of Friendship, a local social service agency that provides food, housing, addiction treatment and neighborhood supports for those struggling with poverty or addiction, and an agency who United Way Waterloo Region Communities supports, acted quickly to find dignified shelter for homeless men within our region. Particularly, along with the challenges we face for stable housing within our community, many homeless men were unwell along with experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. This combination made “life on the streets unbearable for their health and wellbeing”, said Jessica Bondy, director of Housing Services at the House of Friendship.

COVID-19 enables an unexpected pilot project/ShelterCare’s vision comes to life

The stigma around the homeless created difficulty in securing a temporary shelter for one of our most vulnerable populations - yet despite this, House of Friendship was fortunate to partner with a local hotel to provide a 24/7 shelter for  homeless men until the end of August 2020.

A man receives health care.Within 24-hours of the partnership, 51 men were moved from a shelter unsuitable for pandemic measures into the hotel, creating a more dignified and stable environment from the traditional overnight-only model. Through partnerships, not only has the shelter capacity safely increased to 97, but healthcare is provided onsite daily. A primary care clinic opened from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. seeing 12 participants a day. Staff were also able to develop a COVID-19 isolation floor allowing those experiencing symptoms to be tested and treated. There have been zero COVID positive cases.  

For the men staying with us, “the hotel is a place where all their needs are met under one roof”, said Bondy. House of Friendship staff work closely with the men to care for their overall wellbeing ensuring Food, quality sleep, healthcare, recreation activities, community and support are provided. Finally, and most importantly, Shelter staff create a housing plan with the participants, to help get people back on their feet.

As expressed by Bondy, the larger vision of ShelterCare.ca has become a reality through this partnership, as “allowing access to the healthcare they need, and giving love, compassion, and kindness, we can positively change their lives”. For instance, with this model, Bondy mentions that, “we are seeing that people have more hope. They believe that housing is an attainable goal; whereas months ago, pre-COVID-19, it seemed too far.”

A Hopeful future for homeless men within Waterloo Region

In one powerful testimonial, a participant said: “I feel like for the first time in a long time I’m ready to tackle my addictions because, in the conditions of the hotel, I am able to see that I am starting to feel like me. Thanks to the hotel team I realized that I have a life worth living and can do this.”

Several staff have also expressed impact. “I believe the rest, and services at the hotel, gets participants to think about making healthy, alternative choices. Typically, at the shelter, we would have had 5 referrals to residential addiction treatments every 4-6 months whereas now we have had 5 in the last month alone.” Along with this, the model has resulted in a safer work environment for staff, decreased overdoses (and other serious occurrences), reduced incident reports, and increased the overall well-being of participants.