By Alicia K. Gosselin


Hundreds of Algonquin students walked through the cafeteria the first week of October and purchased their breakfast for only 50 cents.

Gordon Esnard, assistant general manager of food services, decided on a whim to turn his extra shipments of Kellogg’s To Go breakfast shakes into a fundraiser for this year’s United Way campaign at the college.

And it hadn’t even started yet.

As per tradition, the Algonquin College United Way campaign kicked off on Oct.10 with a communal breakfast and employee air band competition.

The campaign will continue across campus for 15 days, encouraging participation and raising money for Ottawa organizations that make a social difference within the community.

“It’s people like Gordie that are the heroes of our campaign,” said Jeremy McQuigge, campaign chair and coordinator of the business administration core program. “There was no way of knowing he would get that shipment on a random Thursday and yet he made an instantaneous decision to give.”

That is the theme of this year’s campaign – “Be a Hero” in your community.

According to the United Way’s official website, “you don’t need a phone booth and a cape to be a hero…today’s hero just needs the courage to be selfless and to give.”

Michael Allen, president and chief executive officer of the United Way, said he believes the more people get involved, the more people will realize every day heroes.

It’s been this mentality that has inspired a shift in the focus of Algonquin’s United Way Committee.

The success of the campaign is no longer measured by monetary value, but rather on the participation of the college community. The goal this year is to rally a 50 per cent participation rate throughout the college departments – meaning over 600 employee donations. Regardless of the dollar amount, filling out a pledge form for the United Way counts directly towards participation.

“It’s not what you give – it’s that you give,” said McQuigge, who’s been involved with the campaign for five years. “At the end, we’ll post the participation list for everyone to see. It should be recognized that there are departments who are consistently involved every year.”

The results of the campaign will be released in early December at the Impact event, formerly known as the Touchdown event. The name was changed in order to support the message that the campaign changes lives rather than makes money.

“We also do not charge at the kick-off rally breakfast anymore,” said Rebecca Volk, coordinator and emcee for the employee air band competition. “Instead, we put a pledge form at the table to encourage donations – people give on their own, with no call to action but out of compassion.”

Allen, who attended this year’s breakfast and air band competition, said he is inspired by the Algonquin community and the energy that buzzes around the campaign.

“The magic of the United Way campaign is seeing how many people are willing to volunteer to make a difference,” he said, with a smile. “The participation rate is a great way to underscore that message.”

Despite the breakfast not costing anything for participants, the kick-off event ended up raising $2,400 – significantly more than 50 cents per serving.

“This campaign is incredibly important to our community,” said Christina Miller, the president of the students’ association and a guest judge at the air band competition. “It’s truly inspiring to see how involved staff and faculty are and how they do it with a smile on their face.”