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United Way column for Saturday, December 11, 2021

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, the United Way of Sarnia-Lambton has invested significantly into poverty reduction programs locally.

“We recognized the need for poverty reduction programs and services in Sarnia-Lambton early 2020, and that spring, we began our emergency funding of agencies in need hoping to keep up with the demand of poverty related programs and services,” said Jason Killingsworth, the United Way volunteer board president.

During 2020, the United Way of Sarnia-Lambton funded such poverty reduction agencies as St. Vincent de Paul, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and for River City Vineyard.

Killingsworth said the Board of Directors realized early this year, that many of these poverty related programs and services would be needed for a longer period of time than just during the pandemic and refocused its funding priorities.

“Beginning immediately, the United Way determined it’s new funding priorities to All That Kids Can Be, Healthy People, Strong Communities which includes seniors programming and mental health, and the largest priority, From Poverty to Possibility,” he said.

“This past summer, we invested in a number of programs that help people move out of or avoid the cycle of poverty with access to nutritious, affordable and appropriate food security with support to access emergency shelters and supports to maintain safe and stable housing,” Killingsworth said

As a result of this funding adjustment, the United Way of Sarnia-Lambton is currently funding a nutritious snack program provided by River City Vineyard enabling people who may have nowhere else to go, to visit the Vineyard during the day to access a bottle of drinking water, fruit cheese, and nutritious snack

“We are also funding the food bank at St. Vincent de Paul, enabling the agency to purchase supplies that may be needed for its food bank. Supplies such as vitamins, baby needs, and even diabetic needs. We’ve also provide funding for Walpole Island First Nations Warming Shelter, to enable that agency to complete appropriate renovations to safely accommodate women, which prior to the pandemic was not as much of a need in the community as it is now. We are also funding Habitat for Humanity, as a strategy to help keep our largely senior community with low incomes in their own homes for as long as possible by doing light maintenance and renovations.”, Killingsworth concluded.

The Salvation Army is also currently receiving funding to support its rent and utility assistance, prescription drug assistance and dental assistance for those who may for one reason or another not be eligible for any provincial programs.

In total, the United Way of Sarnia-Lambton is currently funding 20 agencies; 40 different programs and services throughout Sarnia and Lambton County, assisting not only those that are in or near poverty, but also youth, seniors, and those struggling with mental health and suicidal thoughts.

Currently, the United Way Sarnia-Lambton has reached $1.235 million, which represents 70% of the $1.75 million goal.

“We’re down to the final few weeks of the campaign, and we are encouraging everybody that supported United Way in the past, or plan to make a first time contribution this year, to please get their contributions in as soon as possible.

The Canadian Red Cross, Sarnia-Lambton branch is holding an online auction to raise funds for the United Way. The United Way currently funds the Canadian Red Cross do provide subsidized transportation services, Meals on Wheels, and a program called homeward bound in North Lambton. Details on the auction are available on the United Way of Sarnia-Lambton website.

Ducharme said individuals can donate either online by logging into and follow the links to contribute online, or, can either stop by the office at 1362 Lambton Road in Sarnia, or by dialling 519-336-5452.


Photo caption:

The United Way has approved $119,200 in funding to River City Vineyard, first funding renovations at the shelter and purchasing commercial grade washers and dryer’s for those in need of laundry facilities and more recently, funding for a nutritious snack program. River City Vineyard volunteer Sylvie Barbeau Chmielewski volunteers once a week to prepare hot meals for shelter residents and those with nowhere else to go. The United Way campaign is currently at 67% of us $1.75 million goal.