Faces of United Way: Gurston

“When I participated in United Way’s poverty simulation, it was a real eye opener.  I was so impressed with it that I thought it would be good to support it by volunteering for it. Basically everybody is given a role, which includes a set of circumstances that are challenging, and they have to work through an imaginary four weeks in the life of a person who is on the edge of poverty. So we’re not talking about the people who simply lack the skills to enter the workplace in any sense, rather these are people on the edge of poverty, who are living paycheck to paycheck. The simulation includes them experiencing some kind of challenge that just tips them over the financial edge and interacting with community agencies to try to get together a plan so that they can live financially secure lives.”

“I think it’s a very useful kind of exercise for people because I think there’s a general assumption that poverty tells you more about the individual than about their circumstances. Sure, sometimes people make poor decisions, but often times they lose their job through no fault of their own, or they have illness or family responsibilities.”

“When I participated in United Way’s poverty simulation, my role was that of a forty-two year-old grandfather of a one-year-old so I had to juggle child-care and a kind of marginal job. In this kind of marginal job, if the child is ill for a week, is the job still going to be there when you come back? Then it’s the round of charitable agencies and social services, so it changes your thinking about how people become and stay poor, and it also shows you the impact of social agencies being under supported. So, part of the idea of the simulation is that it’s hard to get to see your social worker and the charitable organization just doesn’t have enough money. If you have $600 worth of bills, they can give you $50; so, that’s not a business plan. It’s really an enlightening kind of exercise. It also shows the difficulty of being poor, the frustration, the loss of self-confidence, and all of those negative feelings. It’s a useful thing, and they have to have volunteers to run it, so I do that. I’m retired now. I can do it.”

“People don’t understand the demoralization of living in poverty — that this is a painful experience for people. You know, they can’t make their way in the world and when they have people who depend on them and they aren’t able to deliver for their loved ones, that’s really difficult—the feelings of frustration that the exercise creates.”


To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region we've partnered with Faces of Edmonton. In the coming months, Faces of Edmonton will be featuring faces and stories relating to the United Way and its work in your community. We’re looking forward to sharing these portraits and stories with you. To learn more about United Way's work check out the Report to Community online.

Faces of United Way: Kim and Quinn

“Having children is such a huge transition. You can feel so isolated and alone and there’s no going back. I mean they’re worth it and you made them, so you struggle with the guilt and the feeling that you should be grateful to have this little bundle, but it’s all in your mind—it’s something going on inside of you even though the external might look happy to everyone else, inside you’re dealing with hormonal changes and mental changes—you’re learning how to be a mom. I almost had to mourn the loss of my old self. Your number one isn’t you anymore; it’s now this little person.”

“I wish there were more Family Resource Centres throughout the city. They have great programs. I started taking my daughter there when she was two and it opened up her world because she got to interact with other kids. Then last year she went to play school there. The support is like family. It helps to bond with a group who can relate with what you’re feeling. When you hear other people tell their story and you can relate, all of a sudden that feeling of ‘it’s only me and I’m failing as a mom,’ that isolation gets lifted because you don’t feel alone in this and you feel you’ll get through the challenges.“

“I was diagnosed with postpartum and my doctor recommended that I go to the Family Resource Centre in Mill Woods and get hooked up with the postpartum mom’s group called Managing Motherhood. So I did that. Then we decided to move to St. Albert to set down some roots close to my husband’s job, so we came here and for five months I struggled. I thought I could integrate myself into a new city and do it on my own, but sadly, the postpartum reared it’s ugly head again and obviously it hadn’t really gone away. I remembered there was a Family Resource Centre group here. I looked them up and made a phone call and that changed my life. They sent someone to my house because they actually do home visits, which is nice when you’re feeling really low. So somebody came to my house, we talked and cried, and she met my daughter. She encouraged me to come to the St. Alberta Family Resource Centre and to their parent group. It’s kind of like A.A. for parents. It’s a drop-in thing. There’s a group leader and we talk about different things like potty-training, sleeping, in-laws, and things that you want to talk about in a safe place. So I started going to that and I’ve been going ever since. It’s been two and a half years now.”

“I made a lot of friends at the centre and that was a huge thing. When we moved out here we didn’t see our friends as much as we used to. So making friends here helped a lot. I didn’t realize that it was what I was missing. You think Facebook might suffice and it might for some people, but I really need that human connection.”


To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region we've partnered with Faces of Edmonton. In the coming months, Faces of Edmonton will be featuring faces and stories relating to the United Way and its work in your community. We’re looking forward to sharing these portraits and stories with you. To learn more about United Way's work check out the Report to Community online.

Faces of United Way: Andy

“Balwin is a school with a highly socially vulnerable population, lots of poverty, lots of trauma, lots of refugees. And so because of that population, United Way is involved with Edmonton public in a number of ways, mainly through the Family Centre, E4C, Tools for School and in many other ways. They built the park at the back of the school as part of their day of caring. So the United Way has had a huge impact on improving the lives of our kids and taking them out of that cycle of poverty. We have so many supports in this school that other schools just don’t have because the United Way funds organizations that can come into the school and provide therapy, provide success coaching, and provide individuals to go into homes and support to end that cycle.”

“We’ve got kids who have come from refugee camps, so things like getting those kids to line up is a challenge because for them what they saw in a line up was, I’m going to have to beat my neighbour to get to the rice—it’s trauma inducing. So in this school we have to address our processes and how we do things because we can traumatize the kids just by doing stuff that we take for granted … United Way is supporting us in making sure that we can address those things and that we are looking at things proactively from a position of love … What we have here is a community coming together to make sure that kids can succeed.”

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“These kids are lucky. If they’re not getting a meal at home, they’re getting one here because the school is supported by E4C, which is funded by the United Way. A kid doesn’t go hungry here so learning can happen and then they can give back and end the cycle of poverty for themselves. United Way evens out opportunities so many ways: whether it’s food or social or emotional, ending trauma … and they don’t just do it for the kids, they do it for the families so the cycle of poverty just grinds to a stop and the kids can achieve.”

“The kids here, what they see from the United Way is that there are people out there who care, that poverty can be ended, and that they can achieve something greater than what they thought before. It gives them the capacity to understand that they can also make a difference. In our school too that caring leads to us going out into the community and doing things to give back. In the winter, we have a snow patrol. It started as that block over there and now we will shovel all the way from sixty-sixth, all the way over to the school here and up the side streets. We take a period and everyone goes out with shovels. There’s a lot of older families here who can’t shovel their own walks, so we just do it. Those little things are inspired by the kids’ desire to give back because they see that that’s part of what a good Canadian citizen does.”


To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region we've partnered with Faces of Edmonton. In the coming months, Faces of Edmonton will be featuring faces and stories relating to the United Way and its work in your community. We’re looking forward to sharing these portraits and stories with you. To learn more about United Way's work check out the Report to Community online.

Faces of United Way: Nicola

“I got involved with the United Way through work because we fund their campaign, since I work for the City of Edmonton. That’s how I found out that United Way is the main funding organization for the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton. The Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton seriously changed my life—saved my life, really. So when I found that out, I became very passionate about the United Way. I’ve met so many women who’ve been through so much, particularly in childhood, which has affected their adulthood. Some of them were in prison, some were homeless, some were in abusive relationships, and some struggle with addiction and are in transitional stages in their lives. But after the therapy from the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, they made huge, amazing changes in their lives. They’re working, they’re safe, they’re no longer addicted, and they’re living healthier lifestyles.“

“For me, I’m now working a job that I like. I don’t call in sick all the time, dealing with severe depression and anxiety. I am happy and I feel quite confident in myself. I used to really hide behind a persona and I never spoke up for myself, whereas now I have no issue talking to anybody. I had really bad anorexia and alcoholism and I was not in a good place at all. I had several suicide attempts, but they didn’t work, so I thought there had to be a reason why it’s not working, so I knew I had to deal with it. I tried so many different therapies, but everything else was terrible and just made things worse. It felt like putting a bandaid over the situation. Many of the programs were way more triggering than they were helpful. So I was having lots of flashbacks. That’s when I figured I would call the Sexual Assault Centre. The first phone call was extremely difficult, but from that moment onward, my life completely changed. They were so empowering and encouraging; they educate, they connect you with other people who had similar experiences. Suddenly, you’re not this horrible demon who all these things happened to because you’re a demon, but rather, you’re in the place you are because these horrible things happened to you. So now how do you take your life? One of my best friends from group therapy was literally living in her van when she was in therapy, but now she runs her own business. It’s really amazing the changes that can happen with the therapy program. Knowing that, and seeing so much change, I became even more passionate about the United Way and helping. I knew that many of the women I met at the Sexual Assault Centre were accessing other programs, like addiction programs, the Food Bank, education programs, and daycare programs. Knowing that United Way takes a wholistic approach to helping people, it’s something I can really get behind.”

“I think the program at the Sexual Assault Centre worked so well because it was all based on a significant amount of research on what happens to someone when they’ve been sexually assaulted, harassed, or aggressed against, and they have therapists who use different modalities, which they blend together. They have therapists who speak different languages, which really helps because we have such a multicultural society. Their group therapy isn’t just come in and everybody talks for a bit; it’s come in, this is what we’re doing today, you all get to talk a bit, and then you all get to support one other. That was really profound. Also you get educated every step along the way, so it’s empowering. They also have a crisis line that’s available twenty-four hours a day, that’s specific to their centre, so you kind of feel that there’s a safety net too as you take steps to improve your life.”


To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region we've partnered with Faces of Edmonton. In the coming months, Faces of Edmonton will be featuring faces and stories relating to the United Way and its work in your community. We’re looking forward to sharing these portraits and stories with you. To learn more about United Way's work check out the Report to Community online.

Faces of United Way: Muriel and Ed

“We came to Edmonton in 1962 and from then on we’ve supported United Way … We’re part of United Way’s Red Feather Society, which means that we’ve been donating for over twenty-five years. The Red Feather goes back to the early days of United Way. It was United Way’s emblem when they first started.“


To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region we've partnered with Faces of Edmonton. In the coming months, Faces of Edmonton will be featuring faces and stories relating to the United Way and its work in your community. We’re looking forward to sharing these portraits and stories with you. To learn more about United Way's work check out the Report to Community online.

We Need to Stop Stigmatizing – Ron’s story

He sat there, a rum and coke in one hand, and a revolver in the other, ready to pull the trigger and end his life.

Ron Campbell was suicidal. He was sabotaging his own life and his family’s, so no one would miss him when he was gone. But Ron got the help he needed before it was too late - but so many do not.

Newly retired, Ron now dedicates his life to talking about PTSD and other mental illnesses, any chance he gets.

For 24 years, Ron worked in various departments of the RCMP. He was an expert in crisis negotiation and mediation. He was no stranger to high-stress and often violent situations, including one where his colleague and friend was killed in the line of duty.

He also saw the darkest sides of poverty in his day-to-day work, because in many cases, the people he was called out to help were living in it – and they were desperate.

“We can be productive, we’re not broken toys,” he explains. “We need to stop stigmatizing and start helping those who need it.” Ron is committed to a healthier, stronger community and feels that everyone, regardless of income, should have access to mental health care and support.

Stress is a part of life. But a life in poverty is full of stress. This can lead to family struggles, abuse, and even addiction and crime. As families and individuals try to find their way out, toward a better life, it takes a tough toll that’s physical, emotional and mental. Each year, over 500,000 Albertans access at least one mental health service.


The need is great... but you’re GREATER!

Lead the way! Join more than 3,000 of your community members who give at the Leadership level of $1,200 - $10,000.


An Independent Woman – Elaine’s story

She left with nothing…not a penny. 

The abuse was physical and emotional, and he controlled all the finances. After many years, Elaine finally made the difficult decision to leave her abusive husband.

Elaine applied for welfare and accessed Edmonton’s Food Bank. Hoping to begin healing, she found a drop-in group with other women who escaped abusive relationships. It was here that she learned about Empower U, a financial literacy program supported by United Way.

Her life began to change. In addition to learning how to manage and grow her finances, she took classes on employment preparation and personal growth, and counsellors helped her find work.

Today, Elaine is a licensed financial professional, coaching and mentoring others to reach their financial goals and dreams. And, she’s an active volunteer helping women and children fleeing domestic violence.

Thanks to United Way donors, Elaine is an independent woman, freely giving back to the community who helped her when she was at her lowest.

Economic challenges, natural disasters and a jump in our population. Before it all happened, there were already 120,000 people living in poverty in our region. Now more families are struggling, many making difficult choices between paying the rent and putting food on the table.

In fact, this past year there was a near 10% increase in households receiving social assistance.


The need is great... but you’re GREATER!

Be an Everyday Hero! Join hundreds of people who gave a dollar a day, and help people living right here, in your community.


A Chance to Change – Tim’s story

Tim* was 13 when the trouble started.

He was missing school, his grades were poor and he was at risk of being drawn into crime and gang activity. Then, thanks to United Way donors, just like you, Tim got the support he needed.

Tim’s youth worker learned that he was missing school to look after his two younger siblings. Through program support, alternative child care was made possible. Tim attended more classes, got involved in positive after-school activities, made new friends and his grades improved.

Tim’s youth worker still remembers that day when Tim said: “There’s all these people trying to help me. I want to change.” And the change was dramatic.

*Tim's name has been changed to protect his privacy.

*Tim's name has been changed to protect his privacy.

Tim has since graduated from high school and now has a full-time job. He has plans for post-secondary and wants to pursue a career as a social worker or police officer, so he can pay forward the help he received – the help you gave.

One-third of young children in our community lack the basic skills to begin school, many face challenges through their development years and too many kids aren’t graduating. In fact, 25% in our region do not complete high school within five years.


The need is great... but you’re GREATER!

Celebrate with us! As part of our 75th anniversary, we’re offering a special giving level of $750, please consider giving a commemorative gift.


Faces of United Way: David

“I’ve been involved with United Way since 1977. I remember it was 1977 because the Edmonton Social Planning Council used to be in the 630 CHED building and we had a meeting the day that Elvis died. Elvis had left the building. I was also with the Edmonton Police Service for over a quarter of a century and one year they loaned me to United Way, so I was the United Way liaison with the University of Alberta for four months. The police paid my salary, but I was showing up for work at United Way. I believe in United Way. I think it’s a good way of giving. I became a believer when I worked as a loaned representative. We had quite a good team.”

“I still say that my crowning achievement was that I was on campus pretty well every day for four months and I never paid for parking and never got a ticket. I attribute it to knowledge and friends. I played over thirty-five hockey at the University of Alberta for thirty-two years, so I knew who was in charge of the loading docks.”


To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region we've partnered with Faces of Edmonton. In the coming months, Faces of Edmonton will be featuring faces and stories relating to the United Way and its work in your community. We’re looking forward to sharing these portraits and stories with you. To learn more about United Way's work check out the Report to Community online.

Faces of United Way: Al

“I was on the board for United Way from 1982 to 1988. I was the Chairman of the board in 1987. I also worked with the Government of Alberta so I was involved peripherally after that. I helped with the United Way campaign within the Alberta government as a facilitator.”

“The year I was Chairman of the United Way board, we had the tornado in Edmonton so we became quite involved with that, along with many other organizations, because that was the worst disaster that Edmonton had ever experienced. Most people would not have thought it could happen. I didn’t. As a matter of fact I was at a United Way meeting that night at the building they then occupied, which was across from the High Level Bridge, right on the riverbank. It was a hot day and so we sat out on the balcony. Then all of a sudden it got dark, dark, dark and by the time the session was finished, the rain was coming down in torrents. I was headed to the Legislature Building so fortunately a fellow said he would drive me to the tunnel underneath the legislature. So I watched a bunch of stuff happen including a train get hit by lightning — they were building the government LRT station at the time and there was a crane up there. I was talking to my wife, then all of a sudden we got cut off and BAM — it was a direct hit. It didn’t do anything but frazzle the electricity, but then we found out that we couldn’t go home the usual route because it was impassable, several of the roads were out of business. The next morning, the United Way board met to see what we could do to respond and we became part of the effort. It was really difficult to believe how hard that trailer park got hit on the north east end of the city. The other area that was badly hit was by the Sherwood Park freeway. Transport trucks were tossed around just like they were paper toys. We focused on providing relief where we could.”


To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region we've partnered with Faces of Edmonton. In the coming months, Faces of Edmonton will be featuring faces and stories relating to the United Way and its work in your community. We’re looking forward to sharing these portraits and stories with you. To learn more about United Way's work check out the Report to Community online.

Faces of United Way: Cherry

“I teach the Empower U program for the United Way—it’s a budgeting program. So I facilitate and teach the girls budgeting skills and how to manage money. I took the program myself and I believe in it. It’s a good program. Teaching is a nice way to give back and help people. It’s a really helpful program because a lot of people don’t know about budgeting. There’s lots of good stuff to learn, about your credit and that kind of stuff.”

"I heard about the program when I was in jail actually. The people who facilitate it came to the institution and did a workshop. I was in jail because I sold drugs. I didn’t know anything about budgeting before I took the program. I didn’t have any concept of what it was like to work. The program helps people. Had I not done the program, my life would have been way different—I wouldn’t have savings, I wouldn’t know about credit, I wouldn’t know what a credit report is. I didn’t have any credit at all before and I didn’t have any idea about all of that. Had I not taken the course, I would probably be in trouble still. If you’re stressed about money and you only know how to do one thing, you’re apt to go back to that. I think they should teach kids coming out of high school this program. I wish I could have been taught these skills a long time ago."


To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region we've partnered with Faces of Edmonton. In the coming months, Faces of Edmonton will be featuring faces and stories relating to the United Way and its work in your community. We’re looking forward to sharing these portraits and stories with you. To learn more about United Way's work check out the Report to Community online.

Faces of United Way: Gerald

“Since 1991, everywhere I’ve been, I’ve donated to the United Way—Winnipeg, Saskatoon, and now Edmonton.”

“What makes you want to keep giving?”

“Well, I would say there’s no one particular thing. I would give you a little example: when I lived in Saskatoon in 2004, me and my colleagues were on strike. Because we were on strike, a number of our workers were struggling to put food on the table. I myself, because I tend to be a fairly decent money manager, I devoted my entire strike pay to the food bank ... The reason I donated is because somebody had to care."

“There are so many good charities in a city and there’s also a lot of not so good ones too. For someone to take their time and figure out what are the good charities and what are the bad charities, it takes a lot of effort. And also are they working together in an integrated fashion? The United Way does that for you so you don’t have to make those decisions.”


To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region we've partnered with Faces of Edmonton. In the coming months, Faces of Edmonton will be featuring faces and stories relating to the United Way and its work in your community. We’re looking forward to sharing these portraits and stories with you. To learn more about United Way's work check out the Report to Community online.

Faces of United Way: Larry

"I got involved with the United Way when I was a fairly young person, when I got a summer job working for a United Way-funded agency—it was a centre downtown working with inner city kids and families—and I got hooked … What never ceases to astound me is the kind of leadership the United Way gives the whole community in terms of really moving things forward for positive social change and building partnerships and connections amongst the various components of the community. You know, from businesses and elected officials, civic life and of course the helping components, it’s just great at bringing people together to make positive social change happen. That’s what got me hooked in the work I was doing, but also, just seeing the potential. It kind of came as a surprise to me because I didn’t think I was going that direction with my career, but when I started meeting actual real people who were struggling with their lives, I thought, ‘Here’s a place where I can make a difference.’ It spoke to my heart and that’s where I’ve gone with it.”

“There’s thousands of stories, but let me tell you one. I was working with a lot First Nation’s kids and inner city families where there was a lot of struggle. There’d been family break-ups and that kind of stuff, kids really having difficulty getting the supports they need to grow up. I remember one particular kid I had a really good connection with. I had been working at the agency for three or four years and I was thinking that maybe it was time to do something else. What I remember was we were at summer camp – the Bissell Centre has a summer camp for teens at Wabamun Lake and we were sitting in this homemade sauna we had made on the beach and there were half a dozen teens in there and I said, ‘I think I’m going to quit at the end of the summer and go do something else,’ and this kid said, ‘how could you do that, how could you leave us behind after we’ve learned how to trust you and you’re leading us forward with our lives and now you’re just going to leave?’ He was only about fourteen at the time, but it really made a huge impression on me and I ended up staying. This particular kid, he had some horrible stuff happening in terms of his family, there had been addiction, deaths, and abuse, and he has grown up and done incredibly well. He grew up and became an amazing leader in the community, working as an aboriginal counsellor at a high school. To have seen what a huge contribution he made, to get his life in order and make a huge difference in other peoples’ lives, I’d like to think that I had a little piece in that, but he also had an impact on my life too, you know, so we journey together in this world. It’s very humbling.“


To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region we've partnered with Faces of Edmonton. In the coming months, Faces of Edmonton will be featuring faces and stories relating to the United Way and its work in your community. We’re looking forward to sharing these portraits and stories with you. To learn more about United Way's work check out the Report to Community online.

Summer Break - A Love-Hate Relationship

If you’re anything like me, as a working parent of school aged children, you have a love/hate relationship with summer break. You love that there are no more lunches to make and you get a break from the day to day homework and activities, but summer break brings a whole new level of stress. What do you do with your kids for two months while they are out of school? Without family support, community support, or the financial means to arrange child care or camps, you worry non-stop about what you are going to do for your children.  

I usually have my child in before and after school care during the school year, but to keep him in the same place full time for summer break, my daycare fee doubles. Plus, if the daycare organizes activities for the children, there is an additional fee for all of that as well.  The average Alberta child care cost for a full time school aged child is more than $500 per month.  So, for the two months of July and August, I have this added cost to my monthly expenses. 

The City of Edmonton has several options available for summer for kids and families. If you live outside Edmonton, you can check your community website for information on summer camps and daily activities. Although these camps are great for children to learn new things, make new friends and have great summer experiences, they last for 3 to 5 days, on average, and start at around $100. There are, also, free summer activities, but as a working parent, you still have to figure out how you are going to get them to and from the summer camp, or arrange a grown up to take care of them, whether it’s free or not.  Oh, the stress! 

United Way, proudly partners with non-profit agencies, such as, The Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton & Area (BGCBigs) and Boys & Girls Club of Leduc to support child/youth programs throughout the year, as well as, summer programming for out of school time.  If you are new to the community, lack family support, or just simply want to keep your costs low, while giving your child a great summer experience, get in touch with an agency and learn about the programs available to you. 

Have a safe and fun summer! 

United for Fort McMurray

UPDATE as of May 15, 9:00 a.m.

United Ways in Alberta, and across the country, are watching and sharing the concern for residents of Fort McMurray. With the entire city of 88,000 evacuated – 18,000 to the greater Edmonton area – many are enquiring on how to get help or give help. 

EVACUEES CAN CALL 211 FOR SUPPORT...

Anyone affected by this disaster and in need of help on next steps should make it a priority to call 211 or visit www.ab.211.ca  This service is an essential gateway to many critical supports that will help over the short and long term.

211 has compiled a very helpful list of resource for evacuees of fires in Wood Buffalo. 211 Information and Referral Services to help you navigate through resources needed such as; clothing, housing, shelter, food, etc. 

SUPPORTING EMERGENCY NEEDS…

Emergency Supports United Way partners can offer.

Supports for Seniors

For anyone wanting to help support the immediate response efforts, there are a number of ways:

Edmonton's Food Bank – a funded partner of United Way of the Alberta Capital Region - is providing food resources to evacuees. Donations of food may be left at any major grocery store or fire hall.

Edmonton Emergency Relief Services is coordinating donation efforts, specifically requesting donations of NEW ITEMS.  Items should NOT be taken to the Expo Centre.

All Donations can be dropped off at: 

  • 3870 - 98 Street between 8:00 a.m. and 10 p.m.

NEW items currently needed are: 

-Towels and face clothes

-Bras

-Shoes (all sexes, all sizes)

-Maternity clothing

-Pyjamas (all sexes, all sizes)

-Strollers

-Pillows

-Blankets

-Laundry detergent 

-Paper towels

-Clothing (all sexes, all sizes)

-Dog collar and leashes

-Diapers and overnight pull-ups (size 5&6)

-Sweaters and hoodies (men, women and youth) 

VOLUNTEERS ARE STILL NEEDED! Volunteers must be able-bodied and 16 years of age or older.

The Edmonton Emergency Relief Services Facebook page is updated regularly with important information on what items are needed and when volunteers are needed.  Alternatively, the main number to call for information is 780-428-4422. 

DONATE TODAY – UNITED FOR FORT McMURRAY…

Along with emergency support efforts, the communities and families of Fort McMurray will need to major support to help rebuild not just their homes, but their lives as well.

The social services infrastructure of Fort McMurray and Wood Buffalo will need significant financial assistance to rebuild capacity that will meet the needs of their recovering city and its residents.

To get this process underway, a campaign has been launched to raise funds for the recovery and rebuilding phase.  Donations are now being accepted at www.unitedforfortmcmurray.ca

United Way of Fort McMurray will work with all levels of government and partners to ensure the funds generated will go where they are needed most and where they will have the greatest impact in helping the community recover.

UNITED WAY OF THE ALBERTA CAPITAL REGION’S ROLE…

United Way of the Alberta Capital Region (UWACR) is providing temporary work space and support to United Way of Fort McMurray.  This includes assisting staff with technology and personnel to help them work through this urgent time.  

As well, UWACR is providing key products that will help evacuees.  This includes 400 personal hygiene care kits that will be distributed through the Edmonton Emergency Relief Centre and, through the United Way Tools for School program, some of the children who will be temporarily placed in schools around the region are being provided backpacks full of school supplies so they can be prepared and ready to continue learning as they await plans to return home.  Up to this point, requests have exceeded 1500 and we are working with schools to fill as much of the need as possible. 

It’s ‘ok’ to feel ‘not ok’.

“Healthy body, healthy mind, healthy spirit.”

It’s something my school counsellor said to me one time during one of my weekly visits with him. When I was a teenager, I struggled with depression and anxiety. My high school counsellor, Mr. Boisvert, helped me through lots of rough patches and got me through school to graduation.  He was relatable because he also struggled with depression as a high school student. He shared his stories and his challenges with me that he experienced, as a kid, and I found our conversations very comforting because he helped me feel normal. He really taught me that even though sometimes I didn’t feel ‘ok’, those feelings were ‘ok’.

I would tell him the only way I would feel better was if I would exercise. Exercising and getting in good physical condition would help me feel better about the outside of myself and maybe that would help me feel better on the inside. He agreed and said, “It doesn’t matter why you exercise, what matters is that you keep doing it if it is making you feel better mentally. Healthy body, healthy mind, healthy spirit.” So, I learned that when I kept my body and mind healthy, I would enjoy a greater sense of well-being.

What do you do to stay mentally fit?

This week, May 2-8th, is CMHA’s Annual Mental Health Week.  I encourage you to #GETLOUD for mental health.  Find ways to keep your sense of healthy well-being. Get the clouds in your head cleared away. Exercise your mental demands. Figure out what’s bugging you and deal with it.  Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) recommends strategies for you to take charge of your well-being.

SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP:

There are many people in the Alberta Capital Region that are aware of personal challenges ALL people face and they are there to help. Contact 211 for assistance. 

  • Speak to your doctor if you have any mental health concerns (There is NO SHAME in going to a psychologist or psychiatrist. There is only SUPPORT)  
  • Speak to a career counsellor or human resources expert and make a career plan if you need direction in your work life or work related issues
  • Talk with a specialist for any relationship challenges with loved ones
  • Contact a financial planner or debt advisor for financial challenges

 USE RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO YOU:

There are many ways to use resources available to you.  Reach out and make a call, or go online, go to the library and find some self-help books, go for a walk, etc.

  • Contact your local CMHA branch at cmha.ca
  • Check with your employer:  Employee Assistance Plans (EAPs) and benefit plans will provide access to counselling services
  • Find someone you trust: personal connections are some of the most powerful healing tools for combating depression
  • Live well: a healthy lifestyle can boost your mood

United Way of the Alberta Capital Region supports the work of CMHA and many other local agencies that help individuals and families live better and have a healthy well-being.  It’s normal and it’s ‘ok’ to feel ‘Not ok’. 

In support of your mental health and the health of friends and loved ones, download a tool kit to find out how you can GET LOUD this week!  CMHA May 2-8 Mental Health Week Tool Kit

The Benefits to Filing Taxes on Low Incomes

When you’re struggling financially to make ends meet, filing taxes can bring in extra income.

Filing taxes can open up a lot of possibilities for financially challenged families.  Access to government benefits such as the Canada Child Tax benefit or subsidies such as the Alberta Child Care subsidy are available once you file your taxes.

It is proven that government benefits and tax credits can help boost a family’s income significantly.

The “More than Minimum” report released by the Edmonton Social Planning Council in 2015, shows the implications of enhancing employment income with government benefits. Let’s take a look at this scenario: A lone parent with one three-year old child making $19.33/hour working 35hours/week will have a total annual employment income of $30,000/year after taxes, plus $12,823/year from government transfers such as Canada Child Tax Benefit, Universal Child Care Benefit, Child Care Subsidy, GST rebate and the Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit.  This case shows that over 40% of this family’s income is supplemented by government benefits.

You could be eligible for free tax preparation through the Make Tax Time Pay program.

We are proud to say that Edmonton has one of the strongest Community Volunteers Income Tax Preparation (CVITP) programs in Canada.  The Make Tax Time Pay (MTTP) program, is a volunteer run initiative that operates free tax preparation sites across the City of Edmonton and Strathcona County.

This program, which has been around for more than 10 years, not only provides free income tax preparation services, but more importantly assists families and individuals living in low income to access available government benefits and subsidies.

Last year’s MTTP Campaign, from March to April, 2015, operated 22 tax clinics with over 200 volunteers who put in more than 1,000 volunteer hours.  The program filed 4,367 personal income tax returns during tax season, with 700 people applying for government benefits.  All in all, the MTTP program put over $1.7 million in tax refunds back in families’ pockets.

United Way, in its effort to help families move out of poverty, has made a three-year commitment to the Make Tax Time Pay program.

United Way donated 30 laptops and has also committed to provide $50,000 additional funding, per year, for three years.  This investment will considerably help bring financial stability to the program for the next three years and will increase the program’s capacity to extend its services to more families in need throughout the Alberta Capital Region.