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United Way Toronto raises record $117-million for 2013 campaign

George Cope, 2013 Campaign Chair and President and CEO of Bell Canada and Susan McIsaac, President and CEO of United Way Toronto.

United Way Toronto revealed Wednesday that it raised $117-million in its 2013 campaign – its highest total of all time.

The announcement came at an annual party Wednesday where about 1,500 volunteers and supporters gathered to celebrate.

"This truly speaks to the generosity of Torontonians," said Susan Mclsaac, president of United Way Toronto. "This is a win for not just us, but everyone in the city."

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About $78-million of last year's total, roughly two-thirds, came from personal donations. RBC was the top corporate contributor, with employee and company donations totalling about $11-million.

Toronto, which has the largest United Way branch in North America, edged out its previous donation high of $116-million in 2012.

Its campaign totals have more than doubled in the past 15 years, with $58-million donated in 1998.

Ms. Mclsaac says much of United Way Toronto's recent success is due to the strong turnout of volunteers, including 23,000 last year.

Special events also raised their totals, with the annual CN Tower stair climb raising more than $2-million alone.

"We should all be tremendously proud of what we have achieved for our community," said Ms. Mclsaac.

United Way Toronto will invest the money in about 200 local organizations such as employment agencies, women's shelters and immigrant services. It will also help cover the costs of conducting new research and forming partnerships to help the community.

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One agency that will benefit from the funding is Distress Centres, the oldest and largest emotional crisis and support line in Canada.

The Distress Centres' phone line is currently staffed all night, a service that executive director Karen Letofsky says would have to be cut back without the $300,000 per year it receives from United Way Toronto.

"We're basically the emotional safety net for the city 24/7," said Ms. Letofsky, "We'd be in serious jeopardy without their funding."

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