United Way Hastings & Prince Edward: Community Impact Explained
Nearly everyone recognizes the United Way brand. The international organization has operated here since 1958, with franchises in various communities right across the country steadfastly providing much-needed support to local causes. But how much do we really know about their good work at the local level? We recently chatted with United Way Hastings & Prince Edward’s executive director Brandi Hodge to get the details.
Interview by Angela Hawn
For someone who isn’t familiar, can you explain what the United Way does?
We’re best known as fundraisers and funders, awarding money from our annual campaign to the not-for-profit sector to support the work they do. We try to build the capacity of the local community to respond to its own needs.
Describe some major initiatives the United Way has helped with recently.
Our role always involves collaboration and partnership. We’re on the steering committee for the Bridge Integrated Care Hub for people experiencing homelessness, funding the project manager position and helping develop and implement the program, set to start December 2024.
Another example: Our Women United Group, composed of women donors at the leadership level, partnered with the Quinte Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition to develop an awareness campaign aimed at young people. So many think Human Trafficking is like what we see in movies, but it’s much more subtle: grooming and relationship-building for a purpose. Collaborations with experts from fields like child welfare, women’s domestic violence and the police, culminated in six different posters going up on the backs of bathroom stall doors in schools so kids in need know where to reach out for help.
Above photo: United Way HPE’s campaign cabinet at the launch of their 2023 fundraising campaign.
What’s your impact on the community?
Last year we raised $2.104 million dollars and supported 42 organizations and 65 programs within those organizations. This year’s goal is $2.2 million. Relaying community impact is the constant struggle of the not-for-profit sector, but sometimes it’s best described by what you don’t see: people who didn’t become homeless because there was a program to help them maintain their housing, people who didn’t use a food bank because a service helped them manage their budget, that young person who didn’t fail, but graduated high school because of interventions and mentoring in place to help them succeed.
Photo: Brandi Hodge, United Way HPE’s Executive Director
How is money raised for the campaign?
The United Way bread and butter has always been payroll campaigns, with hundreds of different workplaces in the region setting up a system whereby employees contribute a little something, maybe $5 or $25, off each pay. That typically represents about 65 per cent of our fundraising dollars, but we also rely on other events like our direct mail-out campaign. Some people in the area have been giving for fifty years. The United Way is literally made up of thousands of people contributing small amounts of money to make a big impact.
How has your organization evolved over recent years?
Every few years, we go out into the community to discuss and identify priorities which helps us develop our Community Impact Strategy. Ten years ago, we talked about affordable housing, and when it doesn’t happen, you end up talking about homelessness. Ten years ago we talked about youth addiction, and now we’re making sure there are services available on substance addiction for kids ages 10-12. It’s important to remember everything is interconnected. If we’re going to tackle mental health, we have to tackle poverty, and to tackle poverty, we have to tackle student school success, etc.
Why are you so passionate about supporting your community?
I firmly believe it takes one person to change the trajectory of someone’s life. I had people who wrapped their arms around me in a variety of ways when I was young, and I think that’s an important role for all of us to play. I’m lucky to do that in my professional life.
How can community members help?
I often say we take everybody’s $25 and turn it into 2.2 million. People can also click on our website’s volunteer tab or reach out to Volunteer Information Quinte for opportunities with other community organizations. We all rely on volunteers.