This fall on Memorial University’s St. John’s campus, there will some special fundraising going on. Beginning on Kindness Friday, Oct. 26, some employees and students of the university will hold a variety of creative endeavours to collect funds for United Way of Avalon (UW). Kindness Friday – when members of the university community are encouraged to spread a little more kindness – takes place each year during the university’s annual MUNdays celebrations.
United Way of Avalon is one of 122 volunteer-based United Ways – Centraides that are located in 10 provinces and two territories, plus a national organization, United Way of Canada - Centraide Canada. Their mission is “to improve lives and build community by engaging individuals and mobilizing collective action.”
Kent Decker, Memorial’s vice-president (administration and finance), said that the university is actively facilitating members of the university community contributing to United Way. “Because UW raises funds for virtually all registered charities, Memorial can get behind it and encourage people to give.
“We will offer a payroll-deduction donation option to employees, for example; they can have the United Way distribute their funds to areas of need in this community or they can designate where they want their funds to go, and United Way will make that happen.”
Mr. Decker feels so strongly about UW that he is a member of the board of the United Way of Avalon, along with Dr. Penny Blackwood, director of Memorial’s Alumni Affairs and Development unit.
Next to governments, the United Way movement is the largest funder of the voluntary sector and social services in Canada. Each year UWs raise upwards of $440 million, the vast majority of which is reinvested in local communities to support programs and services directed at improving the social conditions of Canadians. Last year United Way of Avalon raised $570,000 for numerous charities in Newfoundland and Labrador.
A committee of representatives from the university administration, union locals, employees and students has been formed to organize the MUN-UW campaign on the St. John’s campus. Rob Shea, a faculty member in Education, and Mike Murphy of CUPE Local 1615, working in Biochemistry, are co-chairing this year.
Prof. Shea said building awareness is job number one. “United Way is relatively new to this province so many people are not familiar with its dual role – as both a charity directly providing financial support to community groups with particular needs and as an umbrella organization that collects charitable donations and relays them to donors’ designated charities,” he said.
“Through our fun and fundraising activities starting on Kindness Friday, we hope to begin to change that and engage people in supporting through United Way either a charity of their choice or the United Way’s charitable activities.”
Mr. Murphy said a number of employees in university units and groups are approaching this challenge creatively. “In Student Affairs and Services, for example, the dean has challenged a MUNSU student leader to a sumo wrestling match, complete with padded costumes. Spectators will pay an entry fee and vote to pick their favourite competitor,” he said.
“In Biochemistry, we will be holding a United Way coffee break, where we will distribute information to department members about this fundraising organization and invite people to sign up for payroll deductions to UW.
“An easy way for employees to give back to the community is through small weekly/biweekly paycheque deductions throughout the year,” added Mr. Murphy, who is also a member of the United Way of Avalon’s board of directors, representing the Canadian Labour Congress. “Individuals can donate to registered charities of their choice including smaller local registered charities that do not have the infrastructure to do much fundraising,” said, Mr. Murphy.