With pandemic recovery in sight, United Way Elgin Middlesex has launched its annual fall fundraising campaign.
The organization, which provides financial support to agencies supporting vulnerable communities, hosted a virtual presentation Thursday for 3M Harvest Lunch, an effort to provide meals for families, seniors and young people in need.
Instead of gathering for lunch at Budweiser Gardens — an event that typically draws thousands of supporters each September — the agency adopted a pay-it-forward model for a second straight year.
"People can support the 3M Harvest Lunch by going on our website and purchasing (meal) tickets," said Uniway chief executive Kelly Ziegner. "Then, we work with local businesses, local restaurants and food trucks to deliver meals this week."
Thursday, Ziegner joined members of 3M Canada and the Bifana Boys food truck at 550 Hamilton Rd. in London to deliver lunch to area kids and families.
Some ticket revenue goes to United Way-funded agencies offering meal programs year-round, Ziegner said.
Last year, the agency sold a record 3,500-plus tickets despite moving online amid the virus crisis.
This year, it not only beat its goal of 2,000 tickets for 2,000 meals — all prepared and safely delivered by local businesses — but topped the 3,000 mark Thursday afternoon, she added.
"It's really heartwarming to see individuals stepping up for their community and the people in it," Ziegner said. "Last year, we were really concerned about what the pandemic would mean for our fundraising campaign . . . but people really rose to the occasion."
A top priority this year is addressing poverty and other issues exacerbated by the pandemic, such as inequity, mental illness and partner violence, Uniway says.
Joining United Way in the effort to support communities across Elgin and Middlesex is 3M Canada, a title sponsor of Harvest Lunch for 17 years.
“The partnership that we have with the United Way is really important to 3M," said Penny Wise, 3M Canada president and chair of United Way's 2021 fundraising campaign. "(Our organizations) share many attributes in common. The one that's most important is our mantra or view to improving lives.”
The week-long virtual effort kicked off Monday on the United Way's Facebook page and wraps up Friday at 4:30 p.m.
The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada
What: A campaign to provide meals to young people, families and seniors in need in the community.
When: The virtual campaign runs 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until Friday, Sept. 24
Where: Tickets are available until Oct. 1 at unitedwayem.ca. Londoners also can follow the campaign on social media @unitedwayemca
Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press