United Way to tackle poverty, child needs in Cowichan

The United Way campaign in the Cowichan Valley will focus on three themes in 2016/17.

The United Way campaign in the Cowichan Valley will focus on three themes in 2016/17.

These include “poverty to possibility”, “all that kids can be” and “healthy people, strong communities”.

There is a significant need for extra effort on all these fronts and the Central & Northern Vancouver Island United Way can help. But only with the support of the people who live here, according to a wide variety of speakers who addressed the crowd in the Ramada Silver Bridge banquet room for the campaign’s kickoff breakfast Thursday, Sept. 8.

Ellen Oxman of the Nanaimo-Duncan & District Labour Council urged employees to donate simply and easily to the United Way using payroll deduction.

She also urged everyone to “sign up and be a leader; it would really make a difference.”

MC Bruce Williams, who is chair of the Victoria United Way campaign, said it’s possible to endow the charity with investment shares you no longer want and urged everyone to check out that idea.

United Way board member Corrine Thompson said the campaign struggled locally for a bit when the local office closed but after a merger set up the new Central & Northern Vancouver Island bureau of the United Way on April 1, there is a new impetus to fund as many as 20 programs in the Cowichan Valley.

Thompson urged everyone to talk to their friends about donating to United Way.

“Lots of times people don’t do it simply because no one has asked them,” she said.

Duncan city councillor Tom Duncan said that with child poverty in the area at twice the national level, “we have work to do here.”

Duncan also urged people who have retired to set up an automatic deduction to the United Way through their bank.

The crowd also heard details about a host of United Way funding recipients.

North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure celebrated the work of Cowichan Neighbourhood House in Chemainus, especially its efforts to help aboriginal youth.

Gretchen Hartley of Cowichan Hospice Society told the moving story of a couple of relative newcomers to the Valley who had found their way to the support and services that Hospice can offer.

The Clements Centre’s Dominic Rocco said he often sees parents who discover their child has developmental issues find ways to deal with their stress as well as advice on how to find the various therapies that could help give their child “the best chance of success.”

Laura Court of Success by 6 said the group has benefited greatly from the support it has received from the United Way since 2004, calling that help “critical” in reducing the greater social costs that come when early childhood problems are ignored.

Aboriginal Success by 6’s Ada Mawson agreed, saying that this year she is going to aim her efforts at feeding hungry children and families.

The United Way is getting $180,000 this year to help address the problem of aboriginal homelessness and will be holding winter and summer counts of the Valley’s homeless to kick off that work.