United Way of Saskatoon and Area hopes to raise millions in annual funding drive

By Jacob Morgan, Metro September 12, 2013 - Decked out in colourful boas and costumes, about 350 people paraded through downtown waving signs to kick off the United Way of Saskatoon and Area’s 2013 Community Campaign. Chief executive officer, Sheri Benson, told Metro at the event on Thursday morning that although the mark is set high at $6.5 million, she has confidence that the volunteers will be able to pull it off.

“The community sets a lofty goal every year,” said Benson. “Back in 2009 when I became a CEO, the goal was $5 million and we raised $5.8 million. The economy has been booming and I think people who can will share that.”

She added that hundreds of workplaces and thousands of donors are involved in the process.

Some of the initiatives Benson said the United Way would be looking to support with this money include reducing homelessness in Saskatoon, as well as setting up a toll-free number to assist those in need to access the appropriate type of service.

“It’s a three-digit telephone number and it’s operating in provinces across Canada,” she said. “Our goal is to get the 211 telephone line here in Saskatchewan, where people can call talk to a real person and get help navigating this system.”

Rathika Sitsabaiesan, a Member of Parliament for the New Democratic Party from the Scarborough-Rouge River district in Toronto, was in town for the launch, and she said United Way and similar programs are filling a void throughout the country.

“United Way and organizations like United Way are doing a lot of the work that, I think, government agencies should be doing,” said Sitsabaiesan. “Making sure that homelessness is eradicated, making sure that poverty is eradicated and making sure that there is affordable housing in this country.”

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