Yesterday, along with several hundred people from agencies and corporations, I joined in the festivities for the United Way Calgary and Area 2012 Campaign kick-off. En masse we marched down 3rd street to Eau Claire market, hooting and hollering, banging drums and tambourines, calling out to spectators and drivers waiting patiently in vehicles that were stopped at intersections to allow the parade to pass by. At the market, we were entertained by native dancers and heard two young brothers from the Sudan sing their song of tribute, Stand-Up!
The Campaign co-chairs spoke, as did Lucy Miller Ceo and President of United Way Calgary. Mayor Nenshi arrived and talked about legacies. About organizations celebrating their centennials for having served our community for the past one hundred years. The Public Library. YWCA. Wood’s Homes. Calgary Parks and Recreation. The Grand Theatre.
What they share? A desire to make a difference in our community. The dream of making our city great for everyone. Today and for the next one hundred years to come.
It isn’t easy. This making a great city for everyone. Social. Political. Economic realities all impact how people experience our city, especially those on the margins. Those for whom ‘to have’ includes not having a standard of living that allows them to get by without struggling to put food on the table every month or to pay the rent. In a city fuelled by the black gold that flows beneath our soil, giving back to community is the only way to balance the inequities that exist beneath the poverty line.
Calgary is a city of givers. A stat I read in a speech by Mayor Nenshi in November 2011 said that 85% of the people give to charity through cash and/or volunteerism. Last year, the United Way raised a record $54 million. This year, the target is to do it again, with a little bit more.
For the thousand plus people gathered yesterday to participate in making our city great, it was evident what a difference being part of the United Way Campaign makes. From corporate to not-for-profit, pride, enthusiasm, spirit were all on display.
Having been a United Way agency speaker for several years, and having taken on the role of Impact Speaker this year, I have witnessed first hand the difference a group of people makes when they commit to being part of giving back to community. It is contagious. It changes lives. It makes a difference.
Money does matter. But beyond the dollars and cents, it’s about change. Creating lasting, vibrant, sustainable change that makes a difference in the life of every Calgarian – no matter where they stand. No matter how deep their pockets or high the barriers they face in moving out of poverty, disease, distress into possibility and well-being. Changes that ensure we build healthy communities and healthy people, that kids have the opportunity to be the best they can be, and that families and individuals have the support and resources they need to move out of poverty into possibility.
We can make a difference. We can create a world of change when we work together to ensure not one person falls through the cracks because there wasn’t a net to catch them.
Think about what you can do in your community today to make a difference in someone’s life. And then, go do it. Take action. Get involved. Give.
Give your time, give what money you can. Give your support.
We are all connected. And when we work together to connect people who need help, support, a hand up or a hand out, to the resources, tools, education and opportunities they need to change their lives, we all succeed. Because, when one person falls through the cracks, we all do. And when one person rises above the poverty line, we are all impacted.
In Africa, it is called “Ubuntu”. ”I am what I am because of who we all are.”
In Calgary, it is called, The United Way.
Together we can make a difference. Together we do.
Let’s do it!