EDITOR'S NOTE: This is Melanie Popowich's final blog as she will be starting a new journey in Ghana. We are sad to see her leave but we know she will do amazing work in her new role. We all wish her good luck!
As I prepare for the next chapter in my life, it’s hard not to reflect on the past seven years that I’ve spent at United Way. I remember all of the times that I went to the United Way office to drop off my resume, all of the various jobs that I applied for, the interviews and the disappointment of not getting a call back. I knew that one day the stars would align and I would get the chance to prove myself. In the end, my patience paid off. When I finally got the job offer, I jumped around the living room the same way I did after my first junior high school dance when my crush asked me to dance with him to November Rain!
The first day of work I showed up at the InKind Centre with a ton of ambition and a Marketing for Dummies handbook. I coordinated the Tools for School and Coats for Kids and Families programs for two years and then moved to the downtown office to organize campaign events, manage the Great Human Race and then eventually helped create and implement the Discovery Program.
Along the way, I have met exceptional people from both the corporate and agency sectors and have made life long friends. One particularly memorable moment for me was at the finish line at the Great Human Race. As we started the clean up I heard a few cheers coming from a small group of people behind me. When I turned around, I saw a 7-year-old girl, who was on her father’s shoulders, being lowered down and passed her walker so that she could cross the finish line on her own. She had raised a few hundred dollars for her charity of choice and completed her first race. Her parents were bursting with pride and lifted her high in the air to celebrate her accomplishment. I knew at that moment why I waited so long for my job.
My favourite days have all been spent at our member agencies during Days of Caring. I have had the privilege to witness the kindness and compassion of workplace volunteers first hand and see the faces of so many people light up because of the help they’d received from a stranger. Last year we organized 160 Days of Caring and I have a feeling that we will surpass the 200 mark this year. That’s 200 days that workplaces encourage employees to help out in our community. At an average of 10 people per day and 4 hours, we’re talking about 8000 volunteer hours per year – now that is something to be proud of!
There’s no way that I would be able to leave United Way unless it was for something extraordinary. When I received an offer to work in Ghana for one year I couldn’t say no. I will be working with a non-profit organization called Women in Progress and will be managing the Cape Coast Global Mamas office. I know that with the skills I’ve acquired over the past seven years along with the strong support from home, this will be an incredible experience for me.
I will certainly miss the United Way family but I am equipped with enough great memories to last me a lifetime. To everyone at United Way, our Member Agencies, Workplaces and Volunteers, best wishes during campaign this year and 'Meda ase' for the memories!