Youngsters in the Chinese dance group Dance Star

Youngsters in the Chinese dance group Dance Star

United Way sets $1.45 million fundraising goal

The 2012 fundraising campaign starts today with kick-off breakfast in Kelowna.

$1.45 million.

That is the 2012 target unveiled at the kick-off fundraising campaign breakfast this morning in Kelowna for the United Way of the Central and South Okanagan/Similkameen.

Marla O’Brien, executive director of the United Way, said when the CSO chapter of the organization was started 62 years ago, it was with the intent to pool community resources to provide help for people in need.

Today, O’Brien says United Way supports 37 community agencies from Kelowna to Penticton, all of which carry out that same principle of creating healthier communities.

“We hope that by accounting for the fundraising needs of these organizations, they can focus their attention on providing services to our community,” O’Brien said.

Cathy Conway, chair of the fundraising campaign committee, said beyond the $1.45 million donation goal, other campaign objectives will include $130,000 of in-kind donation value to the Days of Caring program, where company employees work on a specific project to assist a United Way supported agency.

As well, Conway outlined a desire to provide $5,000 in youth initiative grants, recruit 500 young business professionals to the GenNext program and get 30 organizations involved in the Think Recycle initiative.

“We have three specific goals to achieve through support of the United Way, to help kids, to promote change from poverty to possibility and to promote healthy people, strong community,” said Conway, who was also chair of the 2011 fundraising campaign committee.

One of the agencies supported by the local United Way is the local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Shelagh Turner, executive director of the CMHA, says more than 700 people use their services annually, while some 10,000 contact the organization looking for information or support.

“One in five people experience a mental illness in their lifetime,” Turner said. “The other four will know of other people who are dealing with mental illness.”

Turner introduced Eimert, one of the CMHA’s clients and active volunteer supporters.

The 56-year-old told the breakfast audience that he has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and bipolar disorder, both of which are under control through medication.

The father of two and grandfather of three kids talked about how his life began to change forever in May of 2007, when the first signs of fibromyalgia began to appear.

Previous to that, Eimert had worked in a variety of jobs that required physical labour, but the onset of fibromyalgia suddenly made him unemployable and trying to live on a limited income, which he described as being below the level of social assistance.

“I moved to Kelowna to live with my sister because she had a spare room at the time. I only intended to stay with her for a short time but ended up being there for two years,” he recalled.

“I was feeling depressed and not sure what to do with my life.”

Becoming involved with the CMHA began to turn Eimert’s life around as he gained a greater understanding of his mental illness and found an outlet to volunteer his time to help others through mentoring and peer support groups.

His efforts earned Eimert national award recognition and helped him get his own life pointed on a positive direction.



Kelowna Capital News