Life Lessons from United Way

Today marks the end of my time working for United Way.  It has truly been a privilege having the opportunity to be part of such an incredible organization for the past seven years.

I have so many wonderful memories of my time at United Way.  I think about the day that I drove around the city handing out nearly a quarter of a million dollars to some our partners to help support the work that they do in community.  That’s a pretty cool feeling. 

I’ve been fortunate to be a part of projects like Partners for Kids, 211, Neighbourhood Empowerment Teams and countless others.  I’ve also had the opportunity to meet incredible human beings like Roméo Dallaire, Stephen Lewis and Margaret Wheatley. 

I have learned so much in my time here but let me share a few thoughts that really stand out for me:

  • Nobody chooses to be poor or homeless. 

  • We all need a little help from time to time.

  • When we come together as a community, we can accomplish incredible things.

  • There is no shortage of talent in the non-profit sector.  Over the years I have had the privilege of working with so many visionary thinkers and people who give selflessly of their time to make life better for all of us.  I think of Liz O’Neill, Executive Director at Big Brothers Big Sisters, a woman who gets more done for the children and families in this community than could ever be realistically expected for a single human being! Liz is but one example, there are countless others.

  • The human spirit is truly an amazing thing.  I have heard countless stories from individuals who have overcome tremendous adversity to make life better for themselves and their families.

  • I am constantly amazed with how much some of the agencies in our city get done with so little resources.  I often hear people suggest that we should match up large companies with our agencies so that they can lend them some expertise around how to run a business.  While there is merit to that suggestion, I actually believe that the benefit may be even greater the other way around.  I think our agencies could teach a great deal to those in the private sector about how to get things done.

  • United Way people are some of the best people you will ever meet.  Whether it is a volunteer at a workplace campaign, a Board Chair or a co-worker down the hall, people who are drawn to United Way are people who believe in making our community better for everyone.

  • United Way brings something truly unique to our community. There is no other organization as well-positioned to bring together partners from across the public, private and non-profit sectors to build a stronger, vibrant community.  When you support United Way, you are supporting a way of working that truly leads to community change.

While I leave United Way as an employee today to begin a new adventure, I know that United Way will always be a part of me.  I will remain an advocate and a champion for United Way in our community.  I will miss this wonderful group of people who have become like a second family to me but I know that I will see you all often.

I will leave with some of my favorite words from Margaret Wheatley:


Turning to One Another

There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about.

Ask ‘What’s possible?’ not ‘What’s wrong?’ Keep asking.

Notice what you care about.

Assume that many others share your dreams.

Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.

     Talk to people you know.

     Talk to people you don’t know.

     Talk to people you never talk to.

Be intrigued by the differences you hear.

     Expect to be surprised.

     Treasure curiosity more than certainty.

Invite in everybody who cares to work on what’s possible.

     Acknowledge that everyone is an expert about something.

     Know that creative solutions come from new connections.

Remember, you don’t fear people whose story you know.

Real listening always brings people closer together.

Trust that meaningful conversations can change your world.

Rely on human goodness. Stay together.


-Margaret Wheatley

Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future, 2002