Despite not reaching an ambitious $777,777.77 goal, United Way of Brandon and District’s 2013 campaign chair is "proud" of the community’s efforts.
"I’m really proud with the amount that we raised," Jaime Pugh-Clemmensen said. "The community really did come together this year and we’re so proud."
United Way of Brandon’s 2013 campaign brought in a hefty $714,000, leaving the organization $63,777.77 shy of the goal announced in September.
In 2012, the local United Way raised more than $758,000.
CEO Cynamon Mychasiw said the lower tally could indicate a change in the local economy in some areas or a change in job status/security for donors.
"We start every year from zero and we build the campaign from scratch," Mychasiw said. "Every campaign is an emotional roller coaster.
"We never know what we’re going to end up with at the end of it."
Mychasiw said 2012 was an "exceptional" year for the organization, but in 2013 it took a hit on corporate employee campaigns that make up about 75-80 per cent of overall donations. In 2012, some 85 employee groups raised nearly $600,000.
As campaign chair, Pugh-Clemmensen said a main focus this past year was educating the public about what the United Way does for the community.
Some of the agencies the organization supports include the Canadian Red Cross, Child and Family Services, Women’s Resource Centre, Youth for Christ, Westman Immigrant Services, YWCA Brandon Meredith Place, after-school programs for kids as well as the Helping Hands soup kitchen, which serves more than 200 people every week. Funds are also distributed to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Brandon and the Samaritan House.
"It’s been wonderful," said Carla Davidson, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Brandon executive director and caseworker manager. "We definitely couldn’t get by without their funding."
With more than 50 youth currently on their waiting list, Davidson said United Way dollars go toward volunteer recruitment efforts, as well as the variety of programs and services. Some youth have been on the waiting list for up to five years, she said.
"It’s a long time and when you’re little you don’t understand years," she said. "We’d like to get some of them matched for sure."
Marla Somersall, Samaritan House Food Bank executive director, said the nearly $40,000 the organization receives every year from the United Way is "very important" for its budget.
"Our operating budget gets stretched more and more, so we never say no to any help that we can get," she said.
To keep up with demand, Somersall said the organization has hired additional part-time staff members. High heating bills during winter are also difficult to keep up with, she said.
"All of those donations make a difference, so when they start to decrease, we feel it," she said. "We’re thankful for everyone who donates to us, but sadly we’re always looking for more."
Thanks to volunteer efforts, the United Way campaign raised enough to support all the local agencies it planned to fund this year, Mychasiw said.
"We always get more applications for funding than we have to give, so each and every year our funding committee has to make difficult decisions to make sure we’re not providing overlap or duplication of services and that we’re funding what the vital needs are in the community," she said.
This year’s fundraising goal will depend on the new campaign chair, who will be announced in March.
United Way also celebrates 77 years of community impact this year.