The response has been absolutely amazing since the first post went up, calling for help. And while there are tons of inspiring stories to share, this one is super exciting to me.
These people like karaoke, I bet you do too!
After finding this site, Jacqui Fox & Tiffany Ponce got on board with the idea of a karaoke party to help raise funds for the United Way. Jacqui ran with it and made arrangements for the biggest karaoke party of the year, and we are only days away from all the action.
Will you come?
Here are the details:
Who: You, and anyone (18+) you want to bring! We are also planning a start-studded cast of local celebrities, so be sure to bring your camera!
What: Karaoke madness! Bring your singing voice and leave your inhibitions at home.
Wow, after seeing our initial call for support, Gourmet Coffee steps up to the plate and it looks like a home run!
From right now, til the end of the year, Gourmet Coffee is partnering with Reunion Island (maker of super fine coffee) to give $2 for every 12 oz bag of Reunion Island coffee that is purchased – for a sweet deal of a price of only $10 – to the United Way of Winnipeg.
All I can say to that is: Gourmet Coffee kicks ass. Thank you!
Just head down to Gourmet Coffee (1485 Erin St) during office hours (8am-4:30pm) and buy a bunch of bags for everyone you know.
In an earlier post, I put a call out to meet some of the people that have been positively impacted by the United Way, and to check out some of the agencies that are funded by your donations. I had no idea it would be so fun!
On Monday night I went down to the United Way offices to wrap up a bunch of gifts that had been donated by a local business. And by a bunch, I mean A BUNCH. It was awesome!
Meeting one of the agencies
The gifts were going to the Fort Garry Women’s Resource Centre the next day to be used in a Christmas party for the families they service, and I had the opportunity to play Santa.
The good folks at the FGWRC are ”committed to creating a community where women & children are safe, healthy, valued and empowered.” And it shows. Through a variety of services & supports – such as counseling, workshops, legal services, self defense & more – the women & children there are getting help for things that they might not otherwise have access to. I’m no expert, though, so if you want more info, go check out their site.
What I am an expert at, however, is fun.
Bringing in the Christmas Spirit!
I could do this more often..
Even though I’m a bit on the skinny side, I’d like to think I made a pretty decent Santa. What I lacked in jiggle, I made up for with jolly! And then, what I lacked in jolly, I made up for with all the presents I was giving away.
As a crowd of mostly single mothers and their children gathered at the centre around a Christmas tree, I burst through the door in full Santa attire, doing my best “HO HO HO” and waving the jingling bells. The kids faces lit up! (Well, except for the 14 year old girl, she was trying to look cool so she contained her emotions… but I know that deep down she was really excited.)
It was really incredible to see how excited the kids were… and smart! One of the young girls, after all the presents had been distributed, pulled me to the side and said: “I know you’re not really Santa.”
Worried that I had lost my cover, I cautiously asked: “Well what do you mean by that?”
She said, with a perfect blend of intelligence and innocence: “The real Santa would be far too busy to be here himself, so he sent you to cover for him.”
Humbled, and choking back tears, I answered with a wink: “Now tell me, how did you get so smart?”
It gets even more touching
I asked the kids, “Does anyone have any questions for Santa before he has to leave?”
A few of the kids, all siblings, came over to me and all asked the same thing:
Santa, can you tell our mom to let us open our presents, like all the other kids did?
Looking around, I noticed that while everyone else had opened their gifts and were busy playing with them, the children from this family still had all of their (expertly wrapped) presents still in tact.
Mad hugs for Santa!
It hit me, that their mother was saving these gifts, because those were the only gifts they were going to get this year. I looked at the mom, then looked back at the kids and asked: “Do you think your mom has a good reason for wanting you to save them?” At first they said “no way!” – they obviously wanted their presents – but when I asked again, the oldest took the lead and smiled. “I bet she does.”
Yes, I bet she does.
Needless to say, this Santa (or stand-in helper Santa, if you ask the genius 6 year old) got mad hugs from everyone and drove off in his magical car, grateful to know that not only was I going to have a great Christmas, but that I had helped someone else have one as well.
If that doesn’t make you feel guilty for not donating, I don’t know what will. Donate here: http://bit.ly/ZlTYuF
A few days ago, this story about Elsa was posted on the United Way facebook page. It was a brief story, but as you can see in the comments, it sparked many comments… which included some valid questions and concerns. I am a firm believer in that lasting change, whether collectively or individually, comes from a hand up, not a hand out, so I asked for more insight into the story.
Graciously, Elsa shared her story in a lot more detail, and I’ve been given permission to share it here. (Thank you so much, Elsa. I am grateful for your courage & example.)
If I eat the sandwich, my kids go to school without lunch. If I give it to them, I won’t eat at all today. It’s okay if I don’t eat enough. My kids are first.
Elsa, Olivia & Diego
Hello. My name is Elsa Garcia. I am 27 years old and I live in the Brooklands community with my partner and our two children Olivia, 7 and Diego, 5. I was 20 and living at home when I found out I was pregnant. My partner and I decided to move in together. First we lived downtown, then on Machray, then we found this place.
My partner works, but he also pays child support because he has kids from a previous relationship. Raising a family on our limited budget is very hard. Especially when his payments are due. There are times when I can’t even buy a jug of milk.
When it’s something your family needs, when you don’t have it, and you have to tell your kids you can’t buy it for them, it’s hard. My oldest, Olivia, sees things her friends have at school, like juice boxes and she wants them too. But those things are expensive. I have to buy whatever’s on sale. Or bulk, and put it in another container. Water it down.
Just the other day, one of Olivia’s friends asked her why her mom doesn’t just buy her those things. So she came home asking me why, mommy. I have to tell her we can’t afford it right now. That I’ll try my best for next time. It just breaks my heart, but I think she understands.
As parents, it’s easy to get upset and stressed. We argue. I know it’s not good for me to be angry at my partner. I know he’s stressed too. I wish I could help our family, at least with getting some of the basics. I want him to know it’s not all on his shoulders all the time. But you justget so frustrated when you can’t provide for your own children.
I’ve got my diploma to be a medical office assistant, but when Olivia came, and then Diego, I had to stay home. We looked at daycares, but it’s too expensive. All my paycheque would just be going to keep them in care.
When I was living at home I never thought I would ever need help, especially with food. You never think you will go through that. When I found myself in that situation, I was embarrassed and ashamed.
Thankfully there’s a place in our neighbourhood that tells me it’s okay. It’s…
…a United Way agency. They tell me that everyone goes through it sometimes and that if we can, if we’re able to help you, we will. And they do.
The first time I went there, it was for a Christmas party they were hosting for the neighbourhood. They didn’t even know me and they just invited me. I’ve never been the kind of person to ask for help, but I was so glad I went. There were toys for the kids, we had a nice dinner, and Olivia and Diego were just so happy. It was a great day!
Since then I’ve joined a health group. We meet every two weeks. They brought in a dietician who gave us tips on shopping for healthy food on a tight budget. But it’s also just nice to meet new people from the community. I remember when I used to live at my parents’ house, nobody around there ever talked to each other. There was no community. But now I know the people around me and if I have a problem I can go and ask them for help. To me it’s like having another family.
There’s also an afterschool program. My kids love it there because they get to draw and paint and do crafts. They get a healthy snack with the other children and ride bikes that were donated. It makes me feel good that they have those things there because we can’t afford to provide them.
We don’t have a computer at home either so the kids can go and play games, and I’ve been getting help with updating my resume and job hunting on the internet. They’ve shown me some of the boards where there are postings and they’re trying to find me somewhere I can volunteer so I can get some experience.
My dream is to just be able to give my kids and my family the basics. When I no longer have to worry so much all the time if we will have enough food…and we can be more happy and not stressed all the time about financial problems, that’s my dream.
So please, whatever you can give, please help.
PS. I know that when I can, I’m going to be donating to organizations like United Way. Because I know how hard it is and I know there’s a lot of people going through what I’m going through.
What I love is that this story shows the power of transition. Hard times happen to people, and sadly it isn’t temporary for many of them, it’s a way of life. What helps people transcend above those hard times, in my opinion (and I could very well be wrong), are 3 main things:
The will to do it
The knowledge & education to make it possible
The support to keep you going when it gets hard
Elsa’s story shows all 3. What has helped Elsa, as she mentions in her story, is the power of community. That is exactly what we need to help make this impossible goal possible. Will you join the movement?
First off, all I have to say is AWESOME. It’s been so exciting to see how much support has come through to help make this miracle possible. I think we can do it…
But first, a little background about why I think the United Way even deserves our help… because at first, I was skeptical.
When I first moved back to Winnipeg (earlier this year, from Phoenix) I drove by the shiny new United Way building on Main street and said to myself, “THAT’S why I don’t donate to the United Way.” Being a self-proclaimed “savvy donator” I knew that my money was best invested going towards organizations that used all of their funds to do actual work in people’s lives, and not to pay for fancy buildings, big salaries, etc. As a kid, I had seen the United Way commercials on TV, but didn’t ever have the foggiest idea what they did. I figured they just used everyone’s money to build a nice building.
Until one day (after asking for some tips on a good place to volunteer) I spoke with someone who worked at the United Way. She broke it down for me in 3 simple points (also each a good reason to give):
None of your money donated to the United Way goes towards administration. In fact, the provincial government believes so strongly in the work that United Way does that a government grant covers all the administration: building costs, employees, etc.
The United Way supports “partner agencies”. And by support, they mean cover their costs to keep their doors open so their employees and volunteers can do the important work they do without worrying about whether the lights will be turned off or not.
You are investing in a vision of Winnipeg. A volunteer board determines where the money raised by the United Way is invested, and the criteria is that those agencies are making Winnipeg a better place in one of 3 areas:
Helping Kids be all they can be.
Moving people from poverty to possibility.
Supporting healthy people & strong communities.
So, there you have it. For more information, check out the official United Way story. Or, here’s a picture I drew all by myself:
How the United Way of Winnipeg works – original artwork by @JosephRanseth
Now, I am a donor to the United Way of Winnipeg. I also volunteered to help market Praehistoria, their big annual party for the young crowd (apparently I’m still young enough to qualify).
I also volunteer at one of their partner agencies, Big Brothers Big Sisters, so I know how important the money raised really is. Without the United Way funding, Big Brothers wouldn’t have the money to cover their administration costs to help the hundreds of kids in our community that they do. (More on that later.)
Before the world ends…
So, over the next 2 weeks or so while there is still some 2012 left, I’m going to be visiting some of those agencies and sharing more about the good work that they are doing. If you know of one (or work or volunteer at one) give me a shout and I’ll come down and check it out.
It’s my hope that if we can share enough of how the United Way is impacting our community, people will be more inclined to help out.
Oh, and if you haven’t donated yet, maybe now’s a good time? http://bit.ly/ZlTYuF (If you already have, or are broke, tell your parents to do the same, they probably have more money than you.)
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