The United Way of Toronto hosted a celebratory dinner Thursday at Metro Hall for 1,500 supporters and volunteers who helped the charity raise over $116-million in an aggressive fundraising campaign to help the city's poor.
Susan McIsaac, United Way Toronto president and chief executive officer, told the packed room that the money would be directed toward the city's most needy, specifically in 13 low-income, under-serviced neighborhoods identified by her organization and the city of Toronto.
"We fund 200 agencies across the city, and in addition to what we've always done with bedrock funding, we identifed what is most important to Toronto at this time – newcomers, youth and neighborhoods," Ms. McIsacc told the crowd. "Most of the poverty in Toronto used to exist in the downtown core, but with shifting demographics and a slow, economic recovery, we've seen that shift to the inner suburbs. We've already built two satellite hubs – in Dorset Park (Scarborough) and Rexdale – and these funds will help us build more. We want to make sure youth have the opportunity to thrive in the community, with a focus on education, employment and engagement."
Ms. McIsaac said the hubs address both short- and long-term needs, by teaming United Way Toronto services with those of other charitable agencies. The 77,000-square-foot Rexdale site, for instance, is the largest of the hubs and opened last spring. "The idea of the hubs – which function as satellites to downtown agencies – is to create a central meeting place for people to come together, so every time they need something, they don't have to get on a bus and move across town. So a single mother might come to learn English as a second language, and discover she can also get daycare support,employment counselling, and even attend a cooking class."
Of the $116.1-million raised in this most recent campaign – which the United Way held in collaboration with CIBC – Ms. McIsaac said $21-million came from corporations, "with virtually everything else from individuals."
The 13 priority neighborhoods share two common traits: a high-density population living below the poverty line, as well as a dire shortage of support services.
United Way Toronto launched the campaign last September.
"We hear there is a [economic] recovery underway, but recovery is always quicker for those who are stronger," said Ms. McIsaac. "The vulnerable take a long time to revamp because they're so close to the edge. We hear from our agencies right across the board that demand for our services has never been higher. And it's demand for basic needs – food, shelter and employment services – that are especially high. We challenged Torontonians to respond to a crisis of serious need for many individuals and families. This response is overwhelming."