As United Way Halton & Hamilton embarks on our 2022-2023 fundraising campaign, we must reflect on the effects of these past three years while considering the road that lies ahead.
On the heels of a global pandemic that struck a devastating blow to so many through the losses of loved ones, jobs, and businesses, and through struggles with mental health, substance issues, social isolation and domestic violence, we are now staring down uncertain and turbulent economic times.
This will prolong and compound the already catastrophic toll of the health crisis.
Those living in precarious situations in our community are more vulnerable to the effects of rising inflation and a looming recession that make it even harder to keep their heads above water. Many of our friends, families, neighbours and colleagues simply don’t earn enough to cover housing costs, utilities, fuel, clothing and food. That gap between earnings and expenses is only worsening, and climbing interest rates will force more and more people to struggle under the weight of debt.
Ultimately, that means more individuals and families turning to shelters and needing food banks to put food on the table. Those most at risk are marginalized in other ways, including by their race, immigration status and gender.
Your United Way Halton and Hamilton is the backbone of a critical network of local agencies supporting those struggling to meet their basic needs. But that network is under great strain.
Let’s not forget that inflation also means rising operational costs for non-profit agencies, which cuts into their ability to support clients. So while demand for services rises, the ability to meet that demand is jeopardized.
We must collectively find a way forward by ensuring critical services are in place that allow those in need to not only survive, but thrive. We need to invest in frontline programs and services that address crucial issues such as food insecurity, poverty, and mental health challenges for everyone from children to the elderly.
We must stand together to battle the rising cost of living that will only push more among us past the brink of crisis. As I reflect on the ballooning costs in my own household, I can only imagine how difficult it is for those living on the edge or close to it.
I have lived in this community my whole life and I am raising my family here. I have stepped into the role of Campaign Cabinet Chair because I’m so proud that all funds raised are invested right here. I’m proud of the tireless staff and volunteers of so many agencies who make lives better, realize the potential in everyone and make our community a place of kindness and compassion.
Last year we supported more than 205,300 people who reached out for help. Next to government, United Ways nationally are the largest investor in social services in our country.
The strategic work of the United Way is based on evidence. We put our money into programs and services that have the greatest impact and we mobilize our agency partners to create an ecosystem that addresses needs at their source. We build capacity in that ecosystem and catalyze innovation that drives community-level change and empowers clients.
Everything we do and everything we are is led by our core values of courage, compassion, conviction and credibility.
Together, we are stronger. That is always true, but in times of uncertainty and uncharted waters, it is a rallying cry for those unwilling to stand by and let members of our community be left behind.
The pandemic reminded us that the only way we can confront a crisis and recover from it in a way that builds a safer, healthier, fairer, and better community for everyone is by uniting.
I am asking you to join us by visiting uwhh.ca/give. Whether you are a long-time donor or a new supporter, whatever you can contribute will make an impact and will change lives for the better.
Be the hope that someone needs in this most challenging time.
Ryan Packer is United Way Halton & Hamilton Campaign Cabinet Chair for 2022. He is vice president of Canadian commercial banking at BMO Financial Group.