We are all looking forward to getting back to ‘normal’. But what is normal? For nearly 60,000 people in Niagara, normal is struggling to put food on the table. For over 650 individuals in Niagara, normal is setting up camp in a parking lot for yet another sleepless night. For countless vulnerable women, normal is hiding in fear from their abusive partner.
Normal is NOT good for everyone. But, we can do better.
“The pandemic continues to reveal what we already know: Vulnerable people in our community simply do not have the same capacity to cope with, and recover from, the devastating impacts of COVID-19 as those of us with access to greater resources and stability. It has become clear that we have more work to do. Food insecurity has skyrocketed, the housing crisis is getting worse, the shadow pandemic of gender-based violence is ever present and youth mental health is an ongoing challenge,” said Frances Hallworth, Executive Director of United Way Niagara during a virtual kickoff event on September 15.
“It is no secret that individuals and families have been pushed to their limits, and the social sector is being stretched beyond its capacity to serve them. That’s why this campaign is so important in our recovery as a community, we have the opportunity to do better.”
Before the pandemic, 50,000 people in Niagara were food insecure, meaning they didn’t have appropriate access to healthy food. That number has increased by at least 20% in 2021. The latest point-in-time count conducted by Niagara Region for homeless individuals has also risen significantly from 625 in 2018 to 665 in 2021. Food banks have seen large increases for demand and shelters continuously operate over capacity. Poverty is a real problem in Niagara and we have the opportunity to help move that needle.
Chief of Police Bryan MacCulloch, the 2021 Campaign Chair, also spoke at the event, sharing that “United Way and the Niagara Regional Police Service share a common goal of creating safe communities where everyone thrives.”
The 2021 campaign goal is to help 120,000 people in Niagara improve their lives. With the support of the Niagara community, United Way can make this goal a reality. “This campaign is just as important as last year, if not more. As government benefits run out, more and more people will be pushed into poverty and we need to come together to help them,” said Hallworth.
“I am proud to be leading the campaign this year. With the many challenges facing our community’s most vulnerable as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, I personally felt compelled to get involved and to do all I can to raise the necessary funds to help our community recover,” said MacCulloch.
In the virtual kickoff, United Way announced two matching initiatives for donors:
For new donors: MNP has stepped up with a $25,000 New Donor Match, matching all new gifts to United Way from individuals dollar-for-dollar up to $25,000.
For leadership donors and above ($1,200+): The Wineries of Niagara Leadership Challenge is back to celebrate the five-year anniversary of their 2016 Leadership Challenge with a $25,000 contribution. Headed up by local winemaker and entrepreneur Donald Ziraldo, this challenge will match all new leadership gifts of $1,200 or more, as well as increases in current leadership gifts of 10% or more up to $25,000.
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