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United Way focuses on real change

By: Jacqui Wiens

With fundraising wrapped up as of Nov. 16, Algonquin’s United Way chair is downplaying whether or not the campaign met its goal.

Jeremy McQuigge, also a business professor at the college, preferred to discuss what funds are used for, and the need for donated dollars.

The campaign’s fundraising goal this year is $120,000 across all campuses and is focused primarily on raising money from staff at the college. There is a $5,000 goal for student donations, but McQuigge says he would prefer if students went out and volunteered for an hour instead.

Students are under an enormous amount of financial pressure, especially during what McQuigge calls “Kraft Dinner weeks,” the last stretch before the end of the first semester.

“Poverty doesn’t know an age or gender. It can happen to anybody; anybody can become a victim of violence. I think at times we’re all in need and I think that’s such a compelling reason of why the college community donates and I think the students donate because they can help the youngest, most vulnerable citizens.”

Algonquin has been involved with the United Way for as long as he has been at the campus, and McQuigge is determined to see it continue for the foreseeable future.

The areas that United Way Ottawa focuses on are giving every child the chance to be their best, giving people a place to turn to when they need help the most and helping everyone feel like they are a vital part of the community.

“I think United Way has a really strong mandate to not only help but to get results,” McQuigge said. “Nobody wants to donate money and then find out it’s being spent on advertising and marketing or somebody’s getting pay raise at an organization somewhere… These programs take people to run and that has a cost… but United Way really takes the time to understand, ‘what’s the impact?’”

Funds raised are going primarily to United Way Ottawa, but funds from the Pembroke and Perth campuses will go to Renfrew County and Lanark County United Way, respectively, so that they can see the impact of their efforts locally.

“I think we get too caught up as a society on the numbers. Did you get the number? What’s the number? The number? How good? Is it better than last year? Is it bigger?” McQuigge paused for breath, “It’s not about that, it’s about ‘Did you help somebody? Is somebody’s life better because of the work you did?’ So I’ve been working really hard to tell that story this year and I’ve really learned that that’s the story we need to tell.”

At this year’s wrap-up event, McQuigge plans to step back from the numbers. The actual amount raised will be addressed, but not only in terms of dollars. Even if the fundraising goal isn’t met, that isn’t necessarily a failure. What happens as a result of the money raised is what matters.

“I want you to learn and to be able to get a job when you graduate,” McQuigge said. “That’s a big part of it. But there’s going to be things that could happen in your life along the way that I can’t control or help you with.

“It creates that situation where I know I could help with some textbooks maybe, or get you a cup of coffee but I can’t put food on your table, I can’t get you a job, I can’t help with a bad family situation. I really have to rely on community agencies like United Way to step up and help.”

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