The United Way has launched a two-pronged fundraising campaign this fall to both support ongoing wildfire recovery relief across the province and support Southern Interior service agencies.
At a kick-off breakfast held Tuesday the Delta Okanagan attended by more than 150 supporters, the United Way celebrated the proclamation of BC Day simultaneously in 11 different communities across the province.
While no fundraising objective was formally set, the United Way B.C. Southern Interior is again looking to raise more than $1 million between now and the end of the campaign next February.
The service organization has also set a goal of raising $20,000 through its Red Solo Cup initiative, named after the red plastic cups on each table at the breakfast.
People can donate by texting 90993 or through the United Way website.
The Red Solo Cup donations will help support a variety of programs and essential supports critical to B.C. residents as they recover emotionally and physically from the devastation of wildfires within our local communities.
Funds go towards addressing important needs like food assistance, trauma and mental health support.
Naomi Woodland, community impact and investment coordinator for United Way BC, said United Way allocated more than $500,000 in-service support for wildlife relief across B.C., with $370,000 of that directed to the Okanagan and Shuswap regions.
Woodland said that effort continues with 340 wildfires still burning across B.C. and 1,200 people on evacuation order and a further 34,000 on evacuation alert.
“We are now moving into the recovery stage but that has only just begun, as recovery is going to take 18 months to two years,” Woodland said.
“Food support services will probably be extended for another three to six months.”
Jennifer Henson, the pastor for Salvation Army Westside, talked about the synergy of different organizations coming together to assist those affected by the Grouse Complex wildfires, in particular the McDougall Creek blaze in West Kelowna which directly impacted nearly 190 properties.
Henson said seniors who were shut-ins or displaced by the fire were an initial concern for the Salvation Army and Westside Health Network, which supports local seniors.
Over the course of a weekend, a strategy was developed to provide six nutritious meals a week to seniors along with two wellness checks and delivery of an emergency kit.
Efforts were also initiated to find alternative places for them to stay if facing evacuation orders from their residences.
“We do more good together than trying to do it alone,” said Henson in reflecting on that synergy of people coming together quickly to help others.
Sonia Newman, executive director of the Westside Health Network Society, echoed those sentiments, as her seniors’ assistance organization once again had the United Way to draw on for support in an emergency crisis.
“I have been with this organization for 25 years and the United Way has been there with us every step of the way,” Newman said.
Jeremy Lugowy, manager of fundraising development for United Way BC, said workplace donation campaigns remain the “bread and butter” of the agency’s fundraising efforts to support local service organizations, coupled with workplaces also being a source of volunteer initiative programs.
“Synergy is a great word to describe what we do, for the United Way collaborates with many different agencies to bring services to people that they need,” he said.
He also noted anonymous donors have generated a $1 million fund for B.C., which will match any new donor donation of $500 or more and a donation up to 15 per cent above $500 for anyone who has donated to United Way in the past two years.
“So that is giving a double impact to your donation,” he said.
For more information about how to contribute a donation to United Way or volunteer your time, visit the website www.uwbc.ca.