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United Way gearing up for new campaign

By Tom Bateman, Herald-Tribune staff

Thursday, June 26, 2014

 

United Way Alberta Northwest presented cheques worth $575,515 at ceremony to mark the end of the 2013 campaign last week. The figure was distributed amongst 24 local community initiatives including Big Brothers Big Sisters, PACE (Providing Assistance, Counselling & Education), Suicide Prevention, KidsSport and Meals on Wheels.

 "We feel really good, this is what we work for all year-round. We're happy to have it done," said board chair Aleasa Tasker. The campaign was working towards a 'defined need' goal of about $1.3 million. The total revenue for the 2013 fiscal year totalled out at $1,044,592.  An additional $49,315 in donor-directed funds will be proved to 46 charities in places such as Peace River, Fox Creek and Fairview.

 It was a year of change for the charity, which saw former executive director Gladys Blackmore leave in February. Brenda Yamkowy, who spent seven years with HIV North, started as the executive director of the United Way on June 16. "She's already hit the group running, we're very pleased with that," said Tasker, who said the United Way will be releasing the names of new board members through the summer as well.

 

New co-chairmen

With the conclusion of the 2013 drive comes a new set of co-chairpermen for the 2014 push.  Taking the helm this year will be recently retired entrepreneur Stewart Wilson, his wife Jackie Wilson and Daily Herald-Tribune publisher Peter Meyerhoffer.

The Wilsons, originally from Scotland, play a role in several local organizations including the chamber of commerce, Safe Communities, Muskoseepi Park, Rotary and Travel Alberta.  "Over the years we've been very successful when we've had husband and wife teams or duos, because it's a pretty hefty load, making all the visits and so on. So we were looking for a couple or person in our community that has a ton of energy and would just be an awesome ambassador and that's where we came up with (the Wilsons)," said Tasker.

Meyerhoffer moved to the area in 2010. In addition serving as publisher of the Daily Tribune, Peace Country Sun, Peace River Record-Gazette and Fairview Post, Meyerhoffer is a member of Business Network International and the Sunshine Rotary Club. He's been a member of the United Way cabinet for the past two years.

In that time, Meyerhoffer said he's gleaned some advice from outgoing chairman Mike O'Connor, who served in the role for two campaigns and recommended Meyerhoffer as his replacement.  In particular, he's learned awareness of what United Way does for the community is vital.  "No one individual actually goes to the United Way for assistance, right?

What they do is, if they need food, they go to the food bank. If they are seniors and need Meals on Wheels, they go there. In the background United Way supports all those things."

He said a large part of fundraising is done through workplace campaigns – an area he'll continue to focus on in the upcoming year. That work starts quickly; Tasker said the organization will be meeting with employers in the city through the summer months to strategize about the campaign, which starts in the fall.  Also upcoming is the Ken Sargent Car-B-Que and Show N' Shine, slated for Saturday, June 28.

 "(O'Connor) led two very successful campaigns. We're hoping to maintain that momentum that he created and hopefully equal or better what has been done the past two years," said Meyerhoffer. A big part of Meyerhoffer's pitch will be the accountability the United Way demands from its benefactors.

 "There's a very strict process in giving the money out. Our executive director does the due diligence to make sure that if someone's requesting money, that they do qualify and that is a good process."  "We do such a sorting and a review process to really pick the agencies that are good at spending the money we give them and really have a defined need," added Tasker.

"I really am amazed with the need in our community, in such a rich community. We have such a solid financially base in our community and there are still people who fall through the cracks."