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West Kelowna kicks off United Way campaign

Marla O
Marla O'Brien, executive director of the United Way of the Central and South Okanagan/Similkameen, explains the importance of the organization during a kickoff fundraising campaign breakfast in West Kelowna Tuesday.
— image credit: Wade Paterson/Capital News

Ika is one of many West Kelowna residents who benefits from the United Way.

She told her story to a room full of politicians, donors and sponsors at the Westside's United Way kickoff fundraising campaign breakfast Tuesday.

Ika's world was shaken when she suffered a stroke.

"When I had the stroke I couldn't speak. I couldn't move my hands. I couldn't move my leg," said Ika.

"The stroke took everything away from me."

Unable to drive herself to doctor's appointments, Ika was forced to rely on friends and neighbours who had offered their support.

"There was a little problem—my friends and neighbours were working nine to five."

After speaking to her physician about the problem he recommended she take advantage of Westside Health Network Society's Transportation Program.

The program was created for older adults in the community who have difficulty accessing the public transportation system.

Ika said the transportation assistance has been a huge relief for her.

Sonia Newman, executive director of Westside Health Network Society, said the Transportation Program is only one small part of what the society does.

"It's because of the supporters of the United Way. Their commitment and dedication to our community (makes) us able to help people like Ika and hundreds more like her."

To continue helping organizations like Westside Health Network Society, the United Way of the Central and South Okanagan/Similkameen has set a fundraising goal of $1.45 million.

"The United Way exists so you can give one gift that will take people from poverty to possibility, one gift that can help kids be all that they can be, one gift that creates healthy families and healthy people who will continue to build a strong community," said Marla O'Brien, executive director of the United Way.

O'Brien noted the United Way works to provide 37 community partners from Penticton to Vernon with stable funding. She added the United Way works "rigorously" with the organizations.

"In addition to providing the funding support, we have an allocations committee and impact teams that regularly visit them, monitor, evaluate and review operations so we can help them be as efficient as possible."

According to Kathy Conway, chair of the 2012 fundraising campaign committee, said there several other goals above the $1.45 million financial target.

Other goals include: Gaining 35 new "leaders" (someone who raises over $1,000 individually), receiving $130,000 of in-kind value to the Days of Caring program, getting $5,000 for youth initiative grants and recruiting 500 young professionals for the GenNext program.

"While money is important, it takes more than dollars to create lasting change," said Conway.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

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