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.