United Way hopes to tap new dollars as mental health advocate helms 2021 campaign

In this supplied photo, members of the public in Lamoureux Park in Cornwall, Ont. on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021 for the United Way of SD&G kickoff campaign. Nick Seguin will be the chairman of this year's campaign. (United Way of SD&G via Newswatch Group)

CORNWALL – The executive director of the United Way of SD&G says a kickoff breakfast in Lamoureux Park Thursday was “phenomenal.”

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, Juliette Labossiere says having a breakfast in the park with a comedy show and member agency booths, highlighting their services, brought back a sense of normalcy.

“It was almost a return to a tradition for us, actually being in person and having breakfast but we wanted to spin it on its head and we wanted it to be different,” she says. “And we needed hope, we needed laughter, so that’s why we had our comedians.”

Labossiere says instead of having testimonials at the indoor breakfast at the Royal Canadian Legion, it would be better to showcase the member agencies for people looking for light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.

“We felt that this year everybody has their own story of how they made it through (the pandemic) and maybe what they need now is to realize how much the United Way services could help them in that final stretch of recovery,” Labossiere says.

She says the United Way campaign will be a “definite hybrid version” where UW staff and volunteers will provide COVID-friendly fundraising presentations in workplaces as well as virtual presentations. “We’re definitely already making some phone calls but hoping some companies will call us as well.” A set of videos are also set to launch during the campaign.

Labossiere says this campaign will be just as important as previous years. While the United Way gave out emergency government funding during the pandemic, it wasn’t a recipient of any money. With its own fundraising to help local agencies, the amount of money the United Way had made it ineligible for wage subsidies.

“This is a very important year for us because it’s for us, it’s like any other year, we are very dependent on the fundraising this year to see us through in our successes for next year,” she says.

Labossiere believes this year may be a little more challenging for raising dollars but she’s hopeful. “I think it’s going to be a good year because I can feel hope in this community. I can feel the vibrancy of people just wanting to get back to how they were so people are being generous and we are seeing contributions from different local foundations above what we’ve seen in past years.”

This year’s campaign chairman is Nick Seguin, a longtime supporter of the United Way, who has run third party fundraising for UW. Labossiere says Seguin is a “champion for mental health in this community” and brought new additions to the campaign team.

“I think it will help us access some new donors because the United Way needs to become relevant to that younger generation. People want to better understand everything we do but we’re still very much seen as (just) a fundraising organization and we’re not.”