United Way HPE’s Cressman addresses Tudor and Cashel council

·6 min read

During the council meeting of Tudor and Cashel Township on Nov. 2, Melanie Cressman, the director of donor relations for United Way Hastings Prince Edward, revealed what her organization had been up to over the past year. So far during this year’s fundraising campaign, they’ve raised 35 per cent of the $1,950,000 they’re aiming to raise over the course of the campaign as of Nov. 1. From Nov. 12 to Nov. 19, their Local Revive and Thrive Virtual Auction is on, to raise more money for their agencies’ different programs.

Mayor Libby Clarke introduced Cressman, who thanked Clarke and council for having her and said she looked forward to sharing what United Way HPE had been up to lately.

On Sept. 15, United Way HPE launched the 19-week campaign season and the progress has been amazing. As of Nov. 1, they’ve reached nearly $700,000 of their $1,950,000 goal, which Cressman says is on par with where they were last year at this time.

Five agencies specific to North Hastings benefit from United Way HPE investments; North Hastings Children’s Services, North Hastings Community Trust, Bancroft Community Trust, North Hastings Community Cupboard and the Sexual Assault Centre. Additionally, they fund eight other agencies that have an HPE mandate that service the communities of North Hastings.

The Local Revive and Thrive Virtual Auction event is the second annual virtual auction that United Way HPE has put on to raise more money for their agencies’ programs. Running from Nov. 12 to Nov. 19 and hosted by Maple Dale Cheese, the auction will feature items like cottage getaways, gift cards, wine tours, spa packages and pie subscriptions. To participate and for more information, go to www.unitedwayhpe.ca/virtualauction2021/.

Focusing on bringing measurable, positive and permanent change throughout Hastings and Prince Edward counties since 1958, United Way HPE works with over 50 organizations to improve the communities and the lives of the people who live in those communities. Over the past 63 years, they have raised more than $43 million to support local not for profit health and social service agencies.

Cressman informed Tudor and Cashel council that her organization had chosen the umbrella this year as the symbol of their local love, saying that it protects, shields, shades, gives comfort and that you can hold it over someone else that may need it.

“You are all umbrellas. Everyone here is part of protecting this community. You’re a vital part of our community’s ability to revive and thrive. United Way HPE is an umbrella organization. We provide support and funding for over 51 local agencies and 93 programs,” she says.

Cressman said that their campaign this year was continuing to work together to revived our community, recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and enable so many friends and neighbours to shift from surviving to thriving. She said that 2020 had been a remarkable year, and that with their annual fundraising campaign and the specialized COVID-19 Relief Fund, they had managed to raise over $2.1 million.

“Our community felt compelled to help their neighbours and fellow community members. It was humbling to say the least. The pandemic however wrought havoc across the country, province and communities. As a result of the economic shutdown, there was a significant pressure on the not-for-profit sector,” she says.

To that end, the federal government made $350 million available in community support funds and looked to the United Way to help distribute this money to community agencies. Cressman told council that in Hastings Prince Edward, they distributed over $700,000 to local agencies on behalf of the Canadian government. She said that these funds were specific, for the last fiscal year and could only be used for pandemic related expenses, and that there was no ongoing operational or stabilization funding available.

“Interestingly enough, when polled, only 33 per cent of the agencies in our area who received these funds reported adequate funding, while 53 per cent indicated they were only somewhat supported. There just wasn’t enough to go around,” she says.

Cressman told council she was there that day not only to ask for their support financially, but also in advocacy, asking them to talk about the work they do with their peers and their networks.

“We ask that each of you consider that most of us are only a paycheque away from needing a United Way funded program. In fact, statistics tell us that one in four people in our community will need access to a United Way funded program at some point in their life,” she says.

In return for their support, Cressman said that United Way HPE makes the following promises to them; maintaining a robust and sophisticated allocations process, remaining hyperlocal to make sure the community has the supports in place needed, reporting back to them with transparency through the CRA, audited financial statements, their annual report and an open-door policy for anyone wanting to learn more about them.

With that statement, Cressman asked council if they had any questions. Councillor Roy Reeds had a question about the allocations process. She replied that the applications process opened up a couple of weeks prior, and that the allocations team, made up of approximately 35 community volunteers, decides where the money goes. She said that any not-for-profit agency registered as a Canadian charity can apply and the application is filled with details about the program they are asking for funding for and the details about how the impact will be measured and the dollar amount they’re requesting. The allocations team then sits down and makes funding decisions based on that data.

“The allocations team spends about three months making these decisions. They have meetings with representatives from each agency so they can ask questions, can go over the financial reports and ensure that any agency funded by the United Way has good governance, has sustainability and is in a position to make the changes with the money that is spent. So, it’s not just divided evenly, it’s very specific to what the program is and what their needs are,” she says.

Councillor Bob Bridger had a query about what percentage of each dollar donated gets to the people that need it. Cressman said that United Way HPE uses 18 per cent of all donated money to address their administrative needs, so the rest, 82 per cent, goes to the people that need their help within the communities they serve.

Clarke lauded the United Way HPE’s efforts, and thanked Cressman for her presentation.

“They have been there everyday since the pandemic began, and we appreciate the support we’ve received in Tudor and Cashel.”

Cressman told The Bancroft Times after the meeting that they were grateful for the opportunity to make the presentation to Tudor and Cashel Township council about the United Way HPE campaign.

“This time of year, it’s important for us to ensure that the community is aware of the work we do as an organization but more than that, the community is aware of the impact that donors make on the communities that we call home. As elected officials and staff of a rural municipality, it’s sometimes easy to feel removed from an organization like ours. So, it’s important that we take the time and the opportunities to raise awareness of the programs we fund all over Hastings and Prince Edward counties.”

Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times

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