Ryan’s Blog: AGM Speech 2016

Ryan's Blog: AGM Speech 2016

Executive Director’s AGM Speech 2016

A couple of years ago, at our Spirit of Community Celebration I told everyone United Way was renovating. I told the story of my own renovation needs to illustrate: my family had grown, the closet was no longer an appropriate bedroom for my daughter! More than a coat of paint, we had to move some walls, add some space and make sure it was working well for my growing family’s needs. The renovation was substantial enough that we had to move out for 5 months. Eventually we moved back in, and got settled. Although new in many ways, it still felt like home. At UWPH, we’ve moved back in too and while we may still be organizing the furniture, it’s beginning to feel like home again too. We are the same organization, but now renewed, refreshed, better equipped to take on the increasingly complex social challenges that exist in our community.

The newly renovated United Way is acting on the board’s 4 long range strategic directions:

  • Collaborative and Cooperative Community
  • Evidence-Based Action
  • Clearly Defined Priorities
  • Increased Revenue and Resources

United Way Perth Huron can now be described as:

  • A Funder: Each year, UWPH raises money and distributes it where needed most. In this capacity, we support numerous agencies (Supported Partners) by funding their programs, primarily over a three year period.
  • A Researcher: The Social Research and Planning Council is a Supported Partner operated by UWPH that provides research, recommendations, and community planning regarding various social issues.
  • A Planner: With recommendations for change comes the need to move the community toward action. Where appropriate, UWPH and/or the Social Research and Planning Council mobilize stakeholders to ensure change happens.
  • An Incubator: By adopting emerging social programs as “projects”, UWPH supports a fledgling idea and its volunteers with our infrastructure with the goal of aiding sustainability and ultimately, graduation from our organization. An example is the Local Community Food Centre based in Stratford.
  • A Shared Service Provider: Recognizing that agencies may need more than money, UWPH provides bookkeeping and services related to tenancy in our building.
  • An Advocate: By providing solutions to complex problems and collaborating with municipalities and other community parties, UWPH advocates for social change.

Because of our renovations, 2015-2016 was a year of growth, seeing our campaign increase by about 5% year over year as we introduced major donor opportunities and a project based campaign in North Perth. It was a year of change, implementing the community impact plan including new funding priorities (All That Kids Can Be, From Poverty to Possibility, and Strong Communities) for our funded partners to consider when applying, our 3 year investment model and our three year fundraising model. It was a year of Impact, seeing several companies increase their wages because of the living wage report, launching the Connect Youth mobile website (a place for youth and youth leaders to go find the service information they need), and preparing for the launch of a new virtual volunteer centre – ivolunteer Perth-Huron (coming this fall).

It’s been another very successful season.

It’s also been an emotional one.

Speaking of emotions, have you ever watched the new CBC TV series, “Hello. Goodbye.”?

It’s a reality series based at Pearson International Airport where people are interviewed as they say “Hello” or “Goodbye” to someone close.

On a recent episode, I heard the story of a Husband and Wife from Sri Lanka waiting to see her parents for the first time since they moved to Canada 3 years ago. They came to Canada to begin a new life; one that would provide more hope for their children. In Sri Lanka they were Dr.’s; In Canada they were working at Walmart and Value Village trying to earn enough money for education to get them back into the Medical system. It was an emotional moment when her parents arrived who they hadn’t seen in several years. Such sacrifice; such overwhelming joy as they said “Hello”.

Later in the episode, a young woman was saying “Goodbye” to her family in Canada. She had chosen to become a Nun and was returning to the Philippines. Her friends, her sister, and her mom were there; all in tears, knowing that it would be a long time until they saw each other again. Saying “Goodbye” is hard to do.

Similarly, it has been an emotional year for United Way Perth-Huron and our supported partners. It’s been hard to say “Goodbye” to some organizations we have worked with for many years who don’t fit as well with our new investment model as others. But it has been incredibly wonderful to say “Hello” to some new supported partners too.

Say Hello to Choices for Change – Crossing Bridges Program – Listowel

After an extensive community engagement process, North Perth Residents told us that youth mental health and access to services were their main concerns. We are now investigating how a community hub might assist with access to services and, thanks to a more than 300 percent increase in North Perth donations this year, we are able to support Choices for Change as they replicate their successful youth/young adult drop in for mental health and addictions program, Crossing Bridges, in Listowel this September.

Hello to YMCA, Huron County branches – Youth Recreation and Arts Program

Helping kids be all they can be is a passion for Ron Cameron. A long standing supporter of the United Way, a former board president, Ron stepped up to ensure kids in Huron county had better access to recreation and arts programs by providing a major gift of $55,000 dollars over three years so that this new subsidy program for lower income children, could continue getting off the ground, become sustainable and make significant impact long-term.

Hello to Social Research and Planning Council – Community Trends Project

While UWPH has supported the research work of the SRPC for many years, we are pleased to extend our support to the community trends project. The Community Trends platform will be an online indicator system which identifies and tracks relevant data that speak to a community’s well. These community indicators provide information on the overall direction of a community, providing data on where it is improving, declining, and / or staying the same. It’s a little like our Quality of Life report, except dynamic and interactive.

Hello to PF Solutions – Practice Firm

While UWPH has supported PF Solutions as a partner incubating the program, we are pleased to go beyond our infrastructure support and provide additional dollars helping the program achieve long term sustainability. PF Solutions (PF) is a practice firm where individuals facing multiple barriers to employment attend over a period of time to upgrade their skills and gain work experience, increasing their employability.

Helping participants that face these barriers is an individual process, one that requires daily mentoring, structure, guidance, motivation, and encouragement and allows the participant to work at his/her own pace. With 97 percent of participants finding employment, this program continues to demonstrate its value to the community as it improves employment readiness for participants.

Hello to Poverty to Prosperity – A coalition of agencies in Huron County Supported by the Health Unit.

This project will serve as a conduit for integrating lived experience into service coordination in Huron County, social program effectiveness, long-term P2P poverty reduction strategies and improved service provision. Through the consultations with primarily with women in identified communities, it will generate opportunities for community engagement, meaningful participation, and empowerment for women, their families and communities. The anticipated outcome is “community services working together better, making it easier to navigate the system”.

While the goodbyes have been hard, I’m pleased to move ahead with many of our long standing partners and some new ones who we can say, “Hello” to.

Here’s to another season of success!

As I conclude my remarks, I want to introduce you to a new and important individual, Debra Swan. With the Local Community Food Centre set to graduate from United Way late this year (a fine example of the incubation work we do!), we’ve hired and Executive Director to compliment Steve Stacey’s gifting. Steve has made a lateral move to be the LCFC’s fundraising and communications person, while Debra steps in to lead LCFC into its independent future. Debra comes to us from Kingston and eastern Canada having many years of experience as an Executive Director, and a consultant that has helped other charities toward sustainability. Please join with me and welcome Debra!

Finally, I want to thank my staff and volunteers. To my staff, who have worked incredibly hard, going way over and above, giving of their time and talent. Because of you we have helped thousands and thousands of people.

And to our more than 600 volunteers, where would we be without you? You have made my job a joy – what a gift it is to serve the community along-side some of the best people in the world.

Together, we have made a lasting impact!

Congratulations to all.


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