Corp Comm Connects

United Way Toronto & York Region committed to positive change
March 2, 2017
Daniele Zanotti

At United Way, “local” and “community” have always been at the heart of what we do.

As someone who lives in York Region and currently enjoys the privilege of leading United Way Toronto & York Region, this commitment to place and the people who live here continues to inspire my work.

We’re close to celebrating two years as a merged United Way Toronto & York Region, and our coming together has mobilized an uprising of care across communities that is keeping “local” front and centre.

Uprisings are also meant to disrupt. We knew we had to do things differently to stay relevant, and the merger is just one example of collaborating and positioning ourselves to do more – understanding and appreciating that our ability to create positive change was far greater working together. And it was about engaging more donors, volunteers and partners to tackle the big issues, like poverty and social isolation on a local level.

And today, we are delivering on this commitment. We’re delivering on this collective desire to come together and make positive change happen that impacts people’s lives close to home.

We challenged ourselves to raise more dollars, setting a record goal in the fall of 2016, and just a few short weeks ago, we surpassed this goal and raised a record achievement of $102-million. Raising funds is a critical part of our work. Dollars sustain our vital network of locally based social services agencies, but identifying where and how to invest in your own neighbourhood is equally important.

This is why knowing what’s happening on-the-ground matters. In January 2016, we carried out Count Me In, part of the federal government’s nationally coordinated point-in-time count of individuals experiencing homelessness. The data collected was an important first step in starting to paint a picture of what homelessness looks like in York Region.

We drilled down on homelessness even further when we partnered with The Region and released a joint report: Understanding the Numbers. The report is helping us better address service gaps and will help us continue working with the community and other levels of government to prevent and address homelessness in York Region.

We know too that global issues like poverty play out differently in Maple than they do in Markham. This is why we continue to collaborate with our local community partners

and government to help move the needle on these issues and improve the quality of life for all of our residents.

It’s this kind of collaboration that helped us roll out Career Navigator, one of our signature programs, into York Region. This March, we’ll celebrate the graduation of about 60 Markham-based young people who were taught highly marketable IT skills. IT is a vast and growing sector in York Region, and we’re working to connect young people to relevant, good-paying jobs.

And it’s this kind of collaboration that has propelled us deeper into partnerships at every level. On the corporate front, we welcomed industry giants like Magna, a company committed to giving back to local communities, and whose gift will strengthen our network of agencies.

Uprisings can sometimes be a little challenging and maybe even a little messy, but they also create great opportunity. At United Way, our uprising of care is about strengthening the places we all live, work and learn – the community we call home.