Jeff Heuchert, Gazette staff
Cold, hard cash wasn’t hard to come by during the United Way of Perth-Huron’s Care-A-Van of Hope on Thursday.
With temperatures below freezing and snowsqualls creating at times whiteout conditions, United Way staff and supporters forged ahead with their planned tour of Huron and Perth counties in an effort to close the gap on a previously announced $65,000 shortfall in the 2012 campaign.
After earlier stops in Wingham, Goderich, Clinton, Varna, Exeter, Seaforth, St. Marys and Milverton, the tour rolled into Stratford just before 5 p.m., where underneath the agency’s thermometer in the downtown it was announced the day, despite the worst winter had to offer, had raised an additional $10,000.
While he had hoped to light up the final two bulbs on the thermometer to mark a completed campaign, United Way executive director Ryan Erb said he was pleased with the “significant dent” the tour had taken out of the funding gap.
He announced they would be extending campaign, which was supposed to end Thursday, until Feb. 20 when the United Way hosts its annual awards night.
On each stop of the tour representatives from some of the United Way’s 50 member agencies shared stories about how the funding helps people in their community. In Stratford, Steve Stacey talked about the positive impact the Local Community Food Centre has had since opening its doors in November, and Kelli Parsons of the Emily Murphy Centre shared a letter from a woman whose life was turned around by the support she received there after fleeing an abusive relationship.
Erb, who noted the next report from the United Way’s Social Research and Planning Council will address the issue of violence against women, said the work of the United Way touches the lives of many people across the two counties, and it is their stories that really matter.
“We can talk about dollars and cents and a campaign goal, but it really boils down to how people are helped in our communities,” he added.
Each stop on the tour was also an opportunity to recognize some of the donations made in each community, including $114 from Stratford Goodwill store manager Michael Szala, $600 from the proceeds of the Stratford streetscape painting and prints by artists Erik Sansam and Irene Miller, and $2,000 from Barenberg and Roth, which sponsored the Care-A-Van on top of its regular campaign contribution.
Despite the less than ideal weather, campaign co-chair Elizabeth Cooper said it had been a great day, highlighted by some surprise last-minute donations, including one from a seven-year-old boy who donated his allowance and one from an 11-year-old boy who contributed his birthday money.
“Not only did we gather monetary support,” added Cooper, “we gathered awareness and generated a lot of enthusiasm for the United Way.”