The Central Okanagan United Way has set a goal of $1.5 million for the organization's annual 2016 fundraising campaign.
"We need a minimum of $1.47 million to meet the needs of our valley communities (from Lake Country to Peachland) and we need community heroes to step forward to help meet that goal," said Shelley Gilmore, executive director of the United Way CSO. "We all have the opportunity to be a hero."
Gilmore was speaking at the kick-off breakfast held Wednesday morning at the Coast Capri Hotel to mark the start of the local United Way fundraising campaign for 2016.
The hero reference by Gilmore was a theme of the breakfast, which will be extended into the campaign, to show how everyone can make a contribution, big or small in cash donation or volunteer time, to help improve the plight of the less fortunate in our communities.
Last year, the campaign raised $1.35 million, which was about 75 per cent from payroll deductions contributed by local business employees and made an impact through United Way supported agencies for some 85,000 people.
Gilmore said the organization remains committed to addressing the issues of homelessness and poverty, from children to seniors, that it embarked on last year, wanting to bring agencies working on the same causes together to share resources and to create an attitude of investment in the quality of life for all local residents.
"Just a $1 donation a day over the course of a year can generate $365 and create true heroes in our community who are helping residents in need to make a change for the better in their lives, to create a more inclusive community," Gilmore said.
One of those 85,000 people impacted by a United Way supported agency, a high school student named Tamara, spoke about the difficulties her family has faced in her life so far and how the Karis Support Society has enabled her mom, she and her three siblings to come together in a stable home environment.
Tamara said the family was pulled apart by an abusive relationship between her mom and her boyfriend, leading her mom into addiction issues and the children to be placed in foster care.
Facing many up-and-down challenges and with the support of Karis, the family has worked its way to come back together living under one roof.
"We have needed the support of several agencies to bring our family back together over time and the donations the United Way has helped changed the life of others such as our family," Amanda said.
Following up on Amanda's speech, Gilmore said it's important going forward for to help save fractured families, and to talk about the broken pieces that exist in our community fabric.
"If we keep these issues of homelessness and poverty hush hush, nobody talks about them. We have to talk about these things if we are going to fix them," Gilmore said.
Cathy Conway, chief executive officer of Interior Savings Credit Union and chair of the United Way CSO board, said supporting the United Way fundraising campaign is a way for the community to work together to improve the quality of life in the Central Okanagan.
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran reiterated the city's support for the United Way so it can in turn fund more than 40 social service agencies that provide services to families, seniors and children facing needs.
Basran said since 2009, city staff have donated more than $200,000 in payroll deductions and donations to the United Way.
"I'm proud of our city workers and the support they have shown toward the United Way and I encourage other organizations to contribute as the needs continue to intensity for social services support," Basran said.
"Supporting the United Way strengthens the social fabric of our community."