Community Stories

Thank you – YOU make change possible

Crossing Bridges

Krystal’s Story

“When I first heard that Crossing Bridges was being brought to Listowel I was excited to have somewhere to go after school for extra support and to simply hang out. I have been attending Crossing Bridges since it opened and can honestly say it has helped me through my ups and downs and offered me the extra support I was not able to find before.

“Being a client of Choices for Change, I have a counsellor at my school that I see weekly. However, having somewhere to go to hang out, talk about anything and just relax has offered me stability and happiness. The staff, Brittany and Joe, are amazing and offer great education, peer support and guidance when I am experiencing difficulty in my life. If it weren’t for Crossing Bridges I don’t know what my after school hours would be filled with, but I strongly believe I would not be in a good space.

“I am thankful for the staff, the drop-in centre and the help it provides me. I hope Crossing Bridges continues to grow and remain in Listowel for other youth to benefit from the program.”

Choices for Change Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron



Thank you – YOU make change possible

Big Brothers Big Sisters North Huron

I met my Big Sister, Ruth, halfway through grade five and now I am in grade eight. Before my mentor, I was close to the shyest person in my school, and I probably got the worst grades, too. I felt like I didn’t fit in and had almost no friends.

When I met my mentor, she seemed to be the only person who understood me. Big Brothers Big Sisters did an excellent job matching me with Ruth because we are very much alike. She was the first person who would listen to how I felt about myself and others.

We meet once a week at my school and we talk about things like food, cooking, bullying, school work, volunteering, job possibilities, family, personal hygiene, current events, and we read stories. I believe that, because of everything we talk about, I am more confident.

Now, I bake brownies and peanut butter cookies for my friends and family. I’ve learned to endure the bullying at school and focus on what I want to achieve. Thanks to my extra confidence, I have been on the honour roll five times, earning me a silver medal! I’ve also learned to release my creative thoughts.

My hope is that Ruth and I will continue to be together until grade twelve and beyond. She has inspired me to become a mentor someday so I can help someone else like me. But I won’t have to wait that long; mentoring is about helping others, teaching them, being friends.

I’m so glad I got a mentor. I almost failed grade five, and now I help others avoid failure. I have more friends than before and I am happy. I now believe I am smart, I am pretty, and I can do anything!

Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Huron Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron



Thank you – YOU make change possible

Huron Recreation, Arts & Sports Program

Brett wanted to play hockey, but the barriers seemed too high.

Brett’s father was off work and looking at another eight weeks before he could go back, and that was only if he didn’t need surgery. It was a tough spot for the family to find itself in and caused unwanted stress; knowing Brett wanted to play hockey so badly, but being unable to give him what he wanted because the fees were too much for them to handle at such a trying time.

Enter the Huron County Recreation, Arts & Sports Program (RASP).

RASP started to provide financial assistance for Brett’s family. Their goal is to mitigate the affects of poverty on families who receive Social Assistance so they can participate in recreation, arts and sports programs, Huron County RASP helps reduce barriers such as registration costs, equipment needs and transportation associated with the activity kids are interested in.

Ultimately, Brett was able to play hockey thanks to the Huron County Recreation, Arts and Sports Program. “The stress you lifted and the joy this will bring for Brett overwhelms me with emotion. I can’t thank you enough!!!!” says Brett’s mother.

YMCA Logo Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron



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Huron Safe Homes for Youth

Andrea’s life was starting to spin out of control.

She skipped school regularly and had to deal with her mother’s struggle with addiction and mental illness. Andrea’s grandfather did what he could, providing a roof over her head, but he was unsure how to be a parent to this troubled young woman.

A concerned teacher referred Andrea and her grandfather to Huron Safe Homes for Youth and the healing process began.

With the support of Safe Homes, Andrea’s grandfather was able to access financial assistance to provide for his granddaughter and is feeling more confident about his parenting skills thanks to the Safe Homes worker who provides him with ongoing support and guidance.

Meanwhile, the young woman who battled low self-esteem, social anxiety and an inability to develop trusting relationships on a daily basis has begun to blossom; Andrea is attending an alternative education program full time and credits the coping and life skills she learned from Safe Homes with her ability to take these first steps towards living a better life.

Andrea’s outlook is improving all the time. With newfound confidence she has built new relationships with her peers and looks forward to attending her prom; something she couldn’t have imagined doing a year ago!



Thank you – YOU make change possible

“My name is Emily and I am the mother of 2 young children.

“Growing up I was not encouraged to cook, so when I found myself responsible for feeding my young family it was overwhelming and a little scary; especially since our food budget is pretty tight at times!

“The first time I came to the Local Community Food Centre a year-and-a-half ago I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. I struggle with diagnosed Generalized Anxiety, and placing myself in new environments with unfamiliar people is a huge challenge. My Family Health Nurse had been bringing us a monthly box of fresh produce sourced from the Local as part of the Health Unit’s Healthy Babies program. She strongly recommended I get involved in the Loving Spoonfuls cooking class, where young mothers like me learn how to cook healthy, family-friendly food from scratch, even on a tight budget.

“What I discovered at the Local was a welcoming, safe space where I could learn how to cook while also making friends with other young mothers like me. My kids have fun playing with other kids during the program, and we have all tried – and loved – new kinds of healthy food that I never would have expected any of us to enjoy!

“What really changed our life this past year was being able to shop for the fresh, healthy ingredients I need for the recipes I’ve learned at the Local’s new Community Access Market. Fruits and veggies have become ridiculously expensive and were sometimes out of reach. But the Community Access Market – which happens on Mondays and Fridays – offers me the chance to buy fresh, high quality food at wholesale not-for-profit prices. It’s now my go-to place for food shopping for my family – and I love coming to the Monday community dinner with my whole family (which gives me a break from cooking for one night)!

“I am so grateful to the Local for empowering me to provide healthy, fresh local food every day for my family, and for creating a place where we truly feel we belong to a community. Thank you!”

The Local Community Food Centre Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron



Thank you – YOU make change possible

Meet Jason Young, Campaign Cabinet member and leader donor

Like many of our great donors, Jason has given to United Way Perth-Huron through his workplace, CIBC, for a number of years. However, when he heard United Way was facing a campaign shortfall last year, he and his wife, Dr. Pip Penrose, saw an ideal opportunity to become more deeply involved in donating to United Way Perth-Huron; enabling support to partner services of United Way that make a positive difference in the lives of people in their community.

“In a sense, when you choose to give to United Way you’re giving to almost 50 supported partners, projects, and programs,” Jason says.

He shared that, “Being able to give as an employee and through payroll contributions simply makes sense. First it’s easy to do and secondly it’s great to be able to lead by example. CIBC has a long history of supporting the United Way Nationally – with employees able to divert their giving to their chosen United Way. I’m proud to be part of this annual campaign and happy my family can be part of this giving as well.”

United Way’s 100% local approach was a major draw to Jason and Pip, as was United Way’s ability to access resources from the larger national organization. This allows United Way Perth-Huron to be as efficient as possible while continuing to examine root causes and solutions to important social issues in Perth and Huron counties such as the Social Research and Planning Council’s recently released Embracing Diversity report; detailing newcomers’ experiences in our local communities.

Ultimately, the opportunity to step up and support United Way Perth-Huron’s multi-faceted approach which combines moving people from poverty to possibility, helping kids be all they can be and building strong communities was about more than simple dollars and cents for Jason and Pip.

“My children are 2 and 4. I’d love our giving to serve as an example for them on how they can help build and support our community as they grow up.” As a final note, Jason and Pip shared “Giving feels great! We’re thrilled to be able to do it. We would tell anyone who is seeking to donate to a local cause to consider United Way Perth-Huron”

Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron



Thank you – YOU make change possible

Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Huron

Elena’s Story:

I was adopted before I was even a month old, and I never thought anything bad about being adopted until I started school. I would wake up, brush my teeth, get dressed, style my hair, eat breakfast, and then get a ride to school. But when I got there, I just wanted to run far, far away, even though I was only 6 years old.

The kids at school called me names because I didn’t look the same as them, and because I looked nothing like my mom. Every day was the same. When you’re little, you don’t have the ability to tell yourself, “Turn the other cheek,” or “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” So instead of staying strong, I felt sorry for myself and cried. I would love to tell you that during elementary school, or even high school, the bullying stopped but I’d be lying. I was in grade seven when the bullying hit its extreme. My mom saw changes in my attitude towards school, the way I looked at life and, worst of all, my respect towards my family.

My mom was struggling to help me, because I was telling her that I didn’t want or need any help when I really did. Almost everyone in my life knew something was wrong. My mom was talking to a friend about how life was getting harder for me, and they suggested ‘Big Sisters’ to her. When my mom brought it up to me, I was nervous; it would mean having to open up to someone as well as my mom. But at the same time it sounded like it would be different and fun, so I agreed to it. I had one condition; my big sister had to have been bullied when she was in school so she could relate to me. My mom agreed. After a few nerve-racking weeks of waiting, I was matched to an amazing, open-minded lawyer who started to change my bad attitude just by sitting next to me.

Donna is a funny, always laughing woman who seemed just as nervous as me when we first met. Even though I didn’t know her at all, I sensed that her flowing vibe could loosen mine. We were matched, but I didn’t know what to expect. After a little bit of time I opened up to her. That was the moment Donna began to be my “Big Sister.”

We have been matched for just over two years now and we have a strong friendship. We have done lots of amazing things together including watching a hockey game in a private box and going sailing. We also just hang out together and do stuff at her house; playing board games, cooking awesome food (the sushi making was the best), and making a cool home-made video that’s been splashed all over YouTube. But even though all of this is fun and special, I would love doing absolutely anything with Donna as long as I was in her company.

I feel like Big Sisters has changed me – I’m more confident about myself than ever before and my self-esteem is so much better. Even though school can still be rough and the bullying continues, my attitude towards it has changed throughout these three years. Instead of feeling sorry for myself and thinking the world must hate me, Donna has shown me that putting a little more effort into the things that really count in life can help overcome all the things that are trying to stop me from being who I am – and being who you are is a treasure in itself. I believe all these positive reactions are inspired by the help and guidance of Donna. Thank you, sis! And thank you all for your support of Big Sisters.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Huron Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron



Thank you – YOU make change possible

John Howard Society of London and District

Malcolm’s Story:

Malcolm was born into a family of eight children. He was the youngest child. Malcolm’s father was an alcoholic and his mother struggled with severe mental illness. Throughout Malcolm’s childhood, police frequently visited his home. He began his dislike for authority figures at a very young age. It was not rare for Malcolm to witness his father and older brothers being arrested and taken from his home. Malcolm hated police for taking his family. Malcolm had a good relationship with his father. Malcolm understood his father struggled with alcohol, however, when he wasn’t in jail, he treated him okay. Malcolm’s mother was abusive physically and verbally towards him. At age twelve, the abuse became so severe Malcolm stood up for himself for the first time and used physical violence against his mother.

Malcolm was sexually abused by a school authority figure at age 14. By age 15, Malcolm started drinking alcohol and by age 16 he was using cocaine. Malcolm dropped out of high school because he couldn’t concentrate on his school work and he was fearful something bad would happen to his family at home. By 18, Malcolm was using Speed (similar to crystal meth) on a daily basis. Malcolm was diagnosed with depression and social anxiety. As time went on, Malcolm struggled to afford his addiction and began to sell drugs. Drugs made the negative thoughts stop in Malcolm’s head. Malcolm began to acquire charges for drugs, theft, mischief and several fails to comply with court orders.

The John Howard Society Worker met with Malcolm in the Stratford Jail. Malcolm had very little trust with the worker at first. He was angry and had a hard shell. The worker put some effort and was able to build trust with Malcolm. Week by week, Malcolm started to tell his story. The John Howard Worker started helping Malcolm by working through some addiction and anger management worksheets. He was able to start understanding where his drug use originated. As Malcolm began to build trust with the worker, his confidence increased. Malcolm became interested in taking high school courses. The JHS worker was able to assist him in obtaining a copy of his high school transcript so he could start taking courses. He completed 10 credits while in custody. Malcolm also attended the anger management group provided by the Society. As time went on, Malcolm started asking for assistance planning for his release. The John Howard Worker helped Malcolm apply for his identification and complete an application for Ontario Works. An appointment with Choices for Change was scheduled so Malcolm could continue looking into his addiction concerns.

Malcolm is now released from Stratford. He continues to maintain contact with the John Howard Society. He has stable housing, a part time job and continues to work on his recovery.

John Howard Society of London and District

Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron



Thank you – YOU make change possible

St Mary’s Youth Centre

10-year-old Aiden was alone when he first came to St Mary’s three months ago.

A shy boy who kept to himself, Aiden was dealing with personal issues at home and wasn’t interacting with peers at school. Concerned about his isolation, Aiden’s school principal reached out to the St. Mary’s Youth Centre to see if he could get involved in an after-school program to help connect with peers.

Aiden began attending the GOALS Breakfast Program. For the first week he came but quietly sat by himself and watched. Another week began. Aiden started becoming interested in the game the children play at the end of breakfast. He moved closer; by the end of the week he started getting involved. By the third week, Aiden had opened up. He sat beside someone he knew from school, was generally more positive and actively engaged.

Seeing Aiden now is to see someone transformed. Gone is the shy boy shocked to see so many computers and games in one place – something he’d never seen in his own life. Now, Aiden comes to the Centre every day and participates in activities with everyone else. He is always the first person to share with someone or show them something they might not know.

With the help of the St. Mary’s Youth Centre, Aiden is gaining confidence and is well on his way to becoming all that he can be!

St. Mary's Youth Centre logo Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron



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PF Solutions – Employment Readiness and Workforce Training

After 21 years of living in an abusive marriage, Noelle made a life-altering decision to leave. Slipping away from her home in the middle of the night, she took to the road; driving from Nova Scotia to Ontario as a violent Maritime storm raged around her.

Four long days later, Noelle arrived in Sudbury and found a women’s shelter. In that safe, welcoming environment she received counselling and began her journey of healing. Noelle remained at the shelter for four months before she moved again; eventually finding herself in the Stratford area.

With no belongings to call her own, Noelle had to face the reality of building a life from scratch. It wasn’t easy. After years as a stay-at-home mother the prospect of re-entering the job market and providing for herself left her unsure, her confidence and self-esteem fragile.

PF Solutions welcomed Noelle and offered her a wealth of opportunities to refresh existing skills, learn new ones, gain confidence and build self-esteem.

After eight weeks, Noelle is moving forward. She has job opportunities in the community and is looking forward to learning even more. “PF Solutions changed my life, my perspective, my possibilities, my future. From hopeless and fearful to hopeful and confident. I can now stand on my own feet,” she says.

PF Solutions logo Employment Readiness Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron



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Choices For change – Crossing Bridges Program

“When Crossing Bridges first became existent I was a student at Stratford Central, who was receiving counselling from Steve Whalen at Choices for Change for my personal struggle with substance use. During this time, I was also experiencing family turmoil. This was due to a close family member battling addiction, who also was serving time in the jail right beside my school. I was attempting to regain my self-confidence throughout while I was recovering from a secondary facial infection that aided the rumours spread throughout my school stating I was addicted to meth, this was false. In the darkest era of my life, six months prior to joining the Crossing Bridges volunteer youth staff team; I made the choice to hang myself. Within moments of losing my life I awoke on my basement floor, unable to scream – I was alive.

A counsellor I was introduced to at Huron Perth Centre informed me that Crossing Bridges was a youth oriented drop-in program focusing on addiction and mental health. I was one of the first five volunteering youth for the program which opened in 2007 at Knox Church in Stratford. I also received counselling from Staff at Crossing Bridges who helped me realize what I needed to do. They were an amazing help and encouragement to the work I do today. On average we had about one to three youth daily, none-the-less we were able to assist these youth and offer high quality peer outreach work. Not long after, I was able to use Crossing Bridges as my high school placement in which I witnessed the attendance grow and need become significant. The work I was able to complete with the youth-in-need helped shape who I was becoming and indefinitely the individual I would become in my future. Crossing Bridges opened my eyes to a new realm of life. Youth who were struggling just as I had struggled were putting their trust in my hands to guide them into positive lifestyles and choices. My recovery become tranquil as I continued my work at Crossing Bridges, ironically enough, it enabled me to cross bridges I never deemed possible.

The substantial influence Crossing Bridges and the youth we serviced had on me opened the doors in my life that helped me become the successful, happy and young professional I am as I stand before you. I was confident attending the drug and alcohol counselling program at Sir Sanford Flemming College where I completed my placement again at Choices for Change only to earn the Professionalism and Excellence Award. Crossing Bridges allowed my suicide attempt and my personal battles to become the foundation of immaculate personal growth and development. I now share my story in the form of a motivational speech to high school students, fellow professionals and community members. I have presented approximately 25 times in front of large groups and have further goals to achieve with this gift. Crossing Bridges has assisted me since I was 18 years old and to this day continues to make me a better human being.”

Alex Wreford

Choices for Change Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron



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Stratford and area YMCA – Membership Assistance

Edith, a Grandmother, recently became the guardian of her two granddaughters due to the incarceration of their mother. Dad is also not in the picture. Edith had mixed emotions, including feelings of apprehensiveness from the pressure to provide opportunities for the girls she loves unconditionally. It was suggested to her by the girls’ school teachers that the girls join an extra curricular activity at the YMCA, but Edith hesitated because of financial stresses. When she found the courage to call the YMCA, staff shared with Edith that there was a subsidy program. Edith was elated and immediately applied.

The girls chose gymnastics but showed signs of fear and anxiety at the classes. The instructors took notice and begin to spend more time with the sisters. As they took small steps in the program, the instructors were cognizant to encourage self-confidence in the girls. This extra effort and attention by the staff enabled the girls to try new moves, jump a little higher, and reach for more. After class, Edith asked the girls what their favorite part was, and they both said their teacher! “I like that I can try something and there is someone to protect me and I like my new friends”. Edith was grateful that programs like this were available to provide opportunities for her granddaughters to participate in activities that facilitate physical activity and positive mentorship.

YMCA Logo Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron



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Emily Murphy Centre

Dylan and his mother are now sailing on smoother seas, though the journey to this point has been tumultuous. He carried deep anger worsened by trauma in his youth, which led to an unsafe setting for his family. But today thanks to the help and support he has received at the Emily Murphy Center, the clouds are clearing, and his future is much brighter.

Stopping domestic abuse to keep families safe can require peer and police intervention, and involvement with the criminal justice and child welfare systems. These necessary steps are vital, but they can also fall short of stopping the familiar cycle of abuse for good.

The Children’s’ Support and Counselling program is designed to provide children who have witnessed and/or experience violence in the home, support and psycho-education resources to cope with their experiences. Children are given alternatives to violent behaviour or abusive expressions of anger.

In the year before his arrival, Dylan witnessed horrific violence against his mother, had watched his father overdose and go away in an ambulance, had been apprehended and placed in foster care, been returned home and he and his mother moved three times to escape the violence in his home. He was angry, hurt and afraid.

By the time he came to the Emily Murphy Center and into the Children’s program, Dylan had stopped talking and was regularly violent toward his mom. After a few months in the program, Dylan was talking again and was enrolled in and loving school. He was making friends instead of isolating himself. He was telling his mom when he was angry, instead of hitting her, and they were working together to find solutions to his agitations.

Together, we are creating a safer, healthier future for families.

Emily Murphy Centre Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron



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Goderich-Huron YMCA
Huron County Recreation, Arts and Sports Program

Asking for help or assistance in whatever capacity was a daunting task for Meredith, but her financial circumstances were creating barriers for her to offer some opportunities she wanted to provide for her two teenage children. She worked two-part time jobs and as a result worked a variety of shifts and she was beginning to feel that she was letting her family down. She wanted them to be active and inclusive members of their community, so when she was told about the Huron Recreation, Arts and Sports Program (RASP) that helps to reduce financial barriers, assist in equipment needs and safe travel options, she got excited.

Since then her boys have had the opportunity to try out a couple of different activities to find the right fit for them; without worry of wasting money and support. Meredith now loves watching her sons’ baseball games and bragging about her boys’ success and enjoyment of the game to her co-workers.

Moreover, she felt empowered by the staff at the YMCA who created an environment where she did not feel judged. Meredith shared with staff in a follow-up thank you letter, “I do know how stressful and embarrassing asking for financial support can be…but you make the process better…there is no judgement from you and you are always focused on the kids.” She knows her kids are getting a chance to be all that they can be as enthusiastic members of their community. Meredith’s confidence has been boosted knowing that her boys are building lasting relationships, skills they can use into adulthood and increased confidence. Positive experiences no longer have to have a price tag.

YMCA Logo Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron



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ONE CARE Home and Community Support Services:
Easy Ride Transportation

Life has taken a sudden turn for Joe (not his real name). He can no longer drive. Joe has had several heart attacks and most recently a stroke and this means that he is no longer allowed to drive. This is not an easy pill to swallow. Joe lives independently, and while he has not been able to work for some time, he appreciated and valued the ability to have his own vehicle to get around. Since losing his license Joe has come to rely on others. Joe has regular specialist appointments with doctors and he needs transportation to get out for groceries, errands and other activities that are part of his daily life. ONE CARE’s transportation services have given Joe the support and he needs to be independent. Joe is also very appreciative that he receives a subsidy on the cost of his transportation, based on his low income and a completed financial assessment. Joe hopes that someday he has recovered enough from his health conditions that he can drive himself. In the meantime, Joe says that ONE CARE has helped him overcome a big hurdle in his life.

One Care logo Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron



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Stratford/Perth Shelterlink:
Living Options For Youth/Emergency Community Placement

Chris came to be with us as a CAS Crown Ward who had outgrown the CAS system of support. With nowhere to go, Chris had spent two years living at Hats Off, a home for brain injured residents. Chris came to Shelterlink exhibiting many of the behavioural traits of a brain-injured individual. We were also provided with a listing of all the learning, social and emotional deficits that Chris had, by two CAS workers who cared about Chris a lot and were willing to be a people resource for him if he could stay with us. Chris came with medications for his list of ailments. Chris was a resident at Shelterlink for one year. In that time, he practiced many things that are conducive to independent living. He located and learned to prepare affordable food sources. He made decisions about income sources. He went to COPE and discovered that he could learn very well indeed, he got a job at McDonald’s and he joined a dance class. Chris was not “street tough” like some of our homeless youth yet, we and our other youth protected him fiercely. Chris spent time with staff in the evenings working through his thoughts and emotions about his self-view, abilities, hopes for the future and history. Chris was the middle child of three children provided with a foster family. The youngest was adopted by the foster family, the oldest was taken in to live by the maternal grandmother and Chris was made a Ward of the Court. He was 8 years old. As well, as an infant, he had been in a car crash with his grandfather and cousin. He was secured in his car seat and was the only survivor of the crash. Chris returned to our Annual General Meeting this June 2015. His stay with us was in 2010-2011. He had earned his High School diploma, gotten an apartment and funding for post secondary education and was almost finished. He said he thought of us as he was about to graduate and called on the International Day of Happiness to tell us so. Chris has one legitimate diagnosis for anxiety now and takes medication for that only. He has no trouble learning and he holds the belief that he is very easy to love close to his heart. He learned that about himself here and through us. While Chris was completing his high school credits he also worked in the summer as a camp counsellor at a camp for at-risk youth and he volunteered at a homeless shelter teaching Life Skills. Shelterlink staff and the Board of Directors are the proud parents of this beautiful, baby boy and who he is growing up to be!

Shelterlink logo

Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron



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PF Solutions

PF recently helped a lady who had become legally blind.  She had a successful and varied career to date and suddenly none of that worked.  We worked through her computer software needs and discovered with her what was possible, so that she could explain to her future employer how she approached tasks and what she was capable of doing.  She recently started a full time job and has a career mapped out in front of her.

We have a younger lady that we work with every Tues morning.  She has mobility issues and multiple health challenges, but she wants to work.  She is usually house bound and her self-esteem and confidence was very low when she started.  After a couple of weeks at PF, her confidence is increasing, she is learning Microsoft Office and we are investigating different employment opportunities – that will work specifically for her.

Fresh out of university – Chris spent months applying for his first job – but without work experience he wasn’t even getting an interview.  After 2 months at PF, actively applying everything he had learnt in a classroom – working with a team, providing customer service, problem solving, and heading up projects he got his first job because his resume actually said that he understood the job and could do the job.

Beth, a young mom, was eager to return to the workforce after a 10 year hiatus.  Currently receiving OW, she found employers looked on her absence as a negative, and weren’t willing to take a chance.  Beth was shy, reserved and lacking confidence when she started at PF.  After a few weeks team members found her opening up and providing input into discussions and projects.  Her intelligence, initiative and attention to detail started to shine through while she was learning computer and database skills.  After over 3 months at PF, adding skills and tasks that she had completed to her resume a large local company was pleased to employ the now confident graduate.  During the time at PF Solutions, Beth also helped her and her family transition to “Mom” working full time.  They learned that with some organization and planning that all was well on the home front and for Beth professionally.

MD had worked for 13 years in upper management accounting in India, however having landed in Canada he still had not found a job after 6 months of applying.  MD spent 3 months at PF Solutions, updating the organizations accounting systems, doing bookkeeping for some local businesses and practicing his business English in the friendly team environment.  Armed with this Canadian work experience on his resume, he acquired an accounting position with a local company.

PF Solutions logo Employment Readiness Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron



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CNIB – Early Intervention

A child was referred to CNIB. The mother and two daughters age 22 months old and 4 years old live in Huron County. The mother is a single parent and has been diagnosed with social anxiety and depression. Unable to work, she receives social assistance and lives in low income housing. A pediatrician diagnosed the youngest daughter with PTUI (Paroxysmal Tonic Up Gaze of Infancy) while an Ophthalmologist diagnosed the child with only nystagmus.

When the Early Intervention Specialist (EIS) first met this mother, she was confused and very anxious to find out what is actually going on with her child. Her daughter presents with intermittent upward eye movements and struggles with balance, often falling for no reason. With support from the EIS, this mother was able to get an appointment with a Neurologist and a Pediatric Ophthalmologist. The Pediatric Ophthalmologist has made a referral to a Pediatric Neurologist to investigate the child’s neurological state. The EIS not only provides support to the mother by attending medical appointments but also provides support to the child in the home and at the child care centre she attends three days a week. The EIS is responsible for explaining the child’s functional vision, discussing accessibility within the child care centre and at the playground as well as working directly with the child to monitor overall development. The EIS is working collaboratively with the Resource Consultant associated with the child care centre to come up with a plan to support her needs. The EIS will continue to provide the mother with a written summary after each visit to support her anxiety. The EIS will support recommendations from the Ophthalmologist for the mother to pay attention to the child’s head and eye posture and monitor alignment of the eyes.

Eventually, a referral will be made to our Orientation and Mobility Specialist for safe travel techniques and to provide training in accessibility to both the mother and child care staff.

CNIB - Early Intervention Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron



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John Howard Society received a request from an inmate at the Stratford Jail named Jim.

Jim had been in and out of institutions most of his life. He explained how his addiction to drugs had negatively impacted his life, destroying pro social ties that he had made throughout the years. Through working with Jim, he discovered that his involvement with the law was tied to his substance use. The worker informed Jim of the alcohol and drug education program provided by the John Howard Society and Choices for Change, he attended the group the following week.

The worker continued to meet with Jim on a regular basis and provided one on one counseling. They worked on strengthening his life skills as well as healthy communication. Jim also worked with the worker on completing a housing application, which he is now on the wait list for.

Closer to Jim’s release date the Society worker made sure that he had many supports in the community. This included connecting with other organizations in the area and making appointments for when he was released. Upon his release he had connected with housing, Choices for Change and the John Howard Society.

The Society worker continues to meet with Jim for one on one counseling bi-weekly, in the community. Jim has built many pro-social coping mechanisms and has displayed many positive changes because of his involvement in the program. Jim attends the gym daily and is currently in the process of attending treatment in Goderich.

John Howard Society of London and District

Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron



Thank you – YOU make change possible

COMMUNITY OUTREACH SERVICES (Knollcrest Lodge) – Transportation

Fred and Martha have been married for many years and love their little home on the farm. They love being close to family and being able to see the many activities that go on around the farm.

When Martha developed health problems that resulted in her needing a wheelchair, it changed their lives. Could they still stay on the farm? Did they have to move? It wasn’t what they wanted to do, however it was something they needed to consider. Their family started by building a ramp and checking into services that could help with this situation. Being in a wheelchair was a huge adjustment for both Fred and Martha as well as their family. For the most part they are managing quite well with the numerous supports their family provides and have found that they can remain on the farm.

They realized that a different means of transportation was going to be needed to get Martha to her appointments so they decided to call for a mobility bus and see if that was a good option.

The first day they used the service, they were surprised with how helpful the driver was and how comfortable the ride was for Martha. They were even happier when their daughter could come along with them to the appointment.

For Martha and Fred using the mobility service was a life changing experience. Since then they have used this service to expand their life. When they use it to go to a wedding, they fill it with family and friends. They go to the doctor, get groceries, visit and have now started to plan their own fall colour tour.

This is what it looks like to turn challenges into opportunities…

Community Outreach logo
Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron



Thank you – YOU make change possible


At the age of 3 Boston had lost both parents tragically in a car accident. He was being raised by his grandparents, but last summer his grandmother passed away. His grandfather, now in his 70’s, was working full-time to support his family.

At the start of the school year, 9 year old Boston was refusing to attend school, was bullying other children, was acting out at home and was caught stealing at a local store. The Case Manager of Big Brothers Big Sisters met with this young boy for the purpose of assessing his needs and to ascertain what agency and community programs would be of benefit to him.

This proved to be challenging, as this young boy chose not to communicate effectively. However, through persistence and patience on behalf of the Case Manager and following three visits, Boston turned to the Case Manager and said, “I don’t like you.”

The Case Manager’s response was, “I am sorry you don’t like me. What can I do to change that, because I like you?”

The boy stated, “I don’t like you because if I like you, you will die!”

The Case Manager’s response was, “But I am here now!”

Throughout the intake process the Case Manager kept reinforcing that she was here now and that a lot of people cared about this him. Seven months later, Boston was matched with a mentor, participating in sports, interacting positively with his peers and attending school regularly. In large part due to the resources available within our community to meet his needs.

Towards the end of the school year the Case Manager visited Boston’s school. It was recess, so the teacher and the Case Manager went out into the schoolyard, and there was Boston with a group of other boys kicking a soccer ball back and forth.

All of a sudden one of the other boys in the group started to cry because no one was kicking the soccer ball to him. Boston went up to the crying boy, put his arms around him and said, “It will be okay. A lot of people care about you, and I am here now.”

He went and picked up the soccer ball and gave it to the boy who was crying. In a small way through his words and actions he had started to care about others, and accept the truth that a community can care for its members.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Huron Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron


Thank you – YOU make change possible

Ken Clarke - SRPC

Dr. Ken Clarke, UWPH volunteer – Social Research and Planning Council and 211 Perth-Huron Advisory Committee

211 LogoSRPC logo square

Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron

I volunteer with United Way Perth-Huron because it provides me the opportunity to use my training and experience for the benefit of the community.

As a member of the Social Research and Planning Council (SRPC) I have seen first hand the impact that this valuable research and evidence can have on our communities. It provides a sound basis and means our efforts and investments are focused to make change possible.

As a member of the 211 Perth-Huron Advisory Committee for many years (in various forms), it brings me peace of mind to know that help is only a phone call away for residents of our area.


Thank you – YOU make change possible

Impact Story - PF Solutions - Sarah

Sarah, a young mom, back to the workforce, learned what she needed at PF Solutions, and now works at Scotiabank.
“My resume looked dramatically different after a few weeks, and it was great to try new challenges in a safe environment”.

PF Solutions

Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron

PF Solutions is a practice firm in Stratford focusing on employment readiness and workforce training in administration for those facing barriers to employment.

Barriers include having never worked, absence from the work force, new to Canada, or an injury or illness requiring a change in industry.

The practice firm provides a learn by doing approach where participants can learn new skills and apply them in a safe team oriented environment.

PF not only adds to your resume, the experience helps self-esteem and boost confidence once
participants know what they can achieve.

“Instead of sitting home alone, you can be “at work” applying for your next position alongside others with similar challenges. The experience is positive and uplifting—and it works. Participants leave with jobs and are still employed after a year.” shared Susan Faber, PF Solutions Manager.


Thank you – YOU make change possible

Malibe with shelterlink sign

Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron

“Shelterlink shelters over 150 youth each year.   Without United Way Perth-Huron the doors would close.”

– Malibe Campantero, Outreach Worker/Case Manager


Thank you – YOU make change possible

Impact Story - Tracy BirtchWhen I moved to Stratford from Ottawa five years ago, I literally knew nothing about this community or the people that call it home.  What I have loved about working with the United Way is the incredible opportunity I’ve had to learn about what makes Perth and Huron County such a special place to be. 

I have learned first-hand what rural hospitality is all about and have been welcomed fully into our community.  I have also had the privilege of meeting countless community members and professionals who all have such a deep care and heart to help their community. 

It has both amazed and inspired me to see so many people giving of their time and effort to help achieve an improved quality of life for everyone.  

My heart has also been deeply touch to know just how many people truly care, and have seen that care continue behind the scenes which to me speaks volumes about how genuine it is.  I am so happy that my family decided to call this place home and that I get the opportunity every day to work with some incredibly kind and caring people!

– Tracy Birtch, Director Social Research & Planning Council / Community Impact


Thank you – YOU make change possible

211 - Woman on phone

211 Logo

United Way Perth-Huron

An elderly woman called 211 regarding getting help contacting the Attorney General’s office. Her husband had been called for jury duty but he had been in a nursing home for several years and could not attend.

The recorded message she heard at the Attorney General number had confused her.  She was very frustrated.

The caller gave 211 permission to call the Attorney General on her behalf. They promised to make a warm transfer to a real person and not another voicemail.  211 explained the situation and the caller was transferred to the correct person who promised to fix the records to take her husband off the list.


Thank you – YOU make change possible

Holding Hands picture

Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Huron

Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron

My mother, a single parent, introduced me to my Big Sister Jeanette when I was eight years old.

My family of three brothers, mom and I, had recently moved from another city to escape my alcoholic and abusive father.  I met Jeanette in the safety of my home with my family present and soon after we had our first outing together.

I was very unsure of what to expect and nervous that I would do something wrong.  In time, Jeanette became my mentor and role model.  She was a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear when I needed it most.  Her subtle guidance over the years led me to pursue my deepest ambitions.

Little did I know at eight years old, that Jeanette would become not just a friend, but in every sense my Big Sister.

Names were changed.


Thank you – YOU make change possible


Community Outreach

Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron

Harold had been quite ill with a chronic disease.  
Now stable, after being admitted to hospital for a couple of weeks, he was discharged home. He lives alone and needed a successful transition plan in place prior to leaving the hospital.  

As Harold’s children weren’t nearby to assist with meals, check on him, or offer transportation to and from his doctor appointments, an agency referral was received.  Harold agreed to a plan that included Perth East Transportation, who would bring him home from the hospital and take him to his appointments as well as MOW (meals on wheels) who brought 5 hot meals per week with frozen meals for weekends.  MOW’s volunteers checked on Harold’s well-being.  

After three weeks, Harold’s strength increased enough for MOW to visit three days a week, allowing Harold to make some of his own meals again.  Eventually, he may not need MOW’s assistance at all as he regains his independence.
*names have been changed for privacy reasons


Thank you – YOU make change possible


Demitria Georgakopoulos, Human Resources Generalist, Hendrickson Truck Commercial Vehicle Systems and Employeed Campaign Coordinator for United Way Perth-Huron.

During my time as a volunteer with United Way, I developed a deeper understanding regarding the ways in which United Way’s mission coincides with the values of Hendrickson. 

Like Hendrickson, United Way represents community, inclusivity, and integrity, and I was privileged to have the opportunity to help improve the quality of life for individuals and families throughout the Perth county region.

Every day, I continue to feel pride in representing an organization that prioritizes its team members and supports the community in achieving its full potential.


Thank you – YOU make change possible

Family Services Impact photo

Family Services Perth-Huron   Supported Partner of the United Way Perth-Huron

Mrs. B, a single parent in her 70’s, had recently been told she had terminal cancer and no further treatment was possible.  Her 40 year old son, Ron, had a developmental disability and had always lived with her as she managed his care.

Unable to emotionally tell her son the bad news, manage his care and her own treatments or deal with the transitions on her own, Mrs. B reached out for help.  Together with her counsellor, she mended prior family conflicts, sold her house, filled out paperwork, had conference calls and accessed supportive living arrangements. 

Ron, now in housing, is managing quite well and accessing community services while building strong relationships with his extended family.  Names were changed.


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