The United Way today (Sept 25) kicked off their 70th campaign, marking a milestone for the organization, as well as a new start. Pictured above is Executive Director, Kahir Lalji, the group’s Executive Director. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

United Way celebrates seven decades of impact in Southern Interior

Organization sees issues with poverty, mental health and addictions, heighten during the pandemic

The United Way Southern Interior B.C. (UWSIBC) yesterday (Sept 25) kicked off their 70th campaign, simultaneously celebrating seven decades of impact.

Going forward into their 70th year, the organization will be focusing on several key issues: poverty, including precarious housing and food insecurity, mental health and addictions, which includes de-stigmatization, and children’s and youth well-being. This includes providing holistic quality of live programming for children and youth.

From his point of view, UWSIBC executive director Kahir Lalji said the pandemic has highlighted and validated the investment in the work they do.

Some people, he explained, have not been able to stay at home during the pandemic, because they don’t have a home. In addition, he said children still go hungry. Youth still feel that not living is a better option than living. Seniors still call first responders for a human voice to listen to.

“These (needs) have been heightened during the pandemic,” said Lalji.

Some issues, he said, are visible in the streets. Others are hidden behind closed doors.

READ: Elizabeth Fry, Kelowna Women’s Shelter collaborate on COVID-19 response campaign

READ: Kelowna Women’s Shelter receives support for frontline workers

“We don’t always see the single mother with two children who are living out of their car. We don’t see some people that have to choose pet food over regular human food because of money,” said Lalji.

Being able to collectively make a dent in these issues, the executive director said, is what motivates them to keep going.

The pandemic did not, however, diminish donations. Lalji said a ‘coming together’ of community has been inspiring to him.

“People have dug deep in their pockets, people have been generous with their talent, their time and their knowledge. And that’s what’s needed.”

READ: Southern Interior charities to receive PPE from United Way

READ: United Way launches COVID-19 response plan to support the most vulnerable

To date this year, the organization has been able to invest over $2 million, which is normally how much they would be able to invest over multiple years. This, he said, has been made possible through businesses and the government who have witnessed that neighbours need their help.

“The need is dire, the need, while we’ve been able to invest more, the demand and the need is even higher,” he said.

Lalji said Friday (Sept. 25) was a special day for them, to not only recognize the nimbleness of their team, but also the social and community services sector.

“It’s super exciting to be able to celebrate seven decades of impact, seven decades of service, and seven decades of collaboratively coming together to address un-ignorable issues across the southern interior,” said UWSIBC Executive Director, Kahir Lalji.

Another large goal of the United Way going forward is to engage in and become relevant in the community.

“We want to hear, we want to listen. We want to mobilize and inspire people to what we call express their local love, so we can collectively address some of these un-ignorable issues,” said Lalji.

He appealed to the public to consider getting involved in the United Way. The group has several events upcoming, including their annual drive-through event in Penticton Oct. 8, and in Vernon in the middle of October.

The group will be taking a journey through seven decades of impact during their stay-at-home gala on November 19.

To learn more, visit Unitedwaysibc.com.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: phil.mclachlan@kelownacapnews.com


 

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