Having never shaved anyone's head before, United Way Sudbury and Nipissing Districts 2013 campaign chair Patricia Mills said her hands were shaking a bit Jan. 7 as she took a razor to Vale executive Kelly Strong's locks.
She shaved a “V” — short for Vale and victory — onto Strong's head before letting a hairdresser take over the task.
“You don't want to nick him and make him bleed or anything, so it was quite an experience,” said Mills, the publisher of Northern Ontario Business and Sudbury Living Magazine, two of Northern Life's sister publications.
Strong, the company's vice-president of Ontario and UK operations, promised to have his head shaved if his employees raised $375,000 for the United Way, a goal they did reach.
Vale then matched the donations, bringing the joint contribution up to $750,000 — the most the company and its employees have donated for eight years.
“It was the least I could do as far as a contribution to this whole day to United Way,” Strong said. “The acknowledgement's got to go to the employees. They're the ones that dug deep and year after year contribute back to the community.”
For the past 31 years, the United Steelworkers union and Vale have worked together to promote the United Way campaign.
“We're going to continue to work together, making sure we reach that goal and helping the community,” said Steelworkers Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand.
“It's a great thing to do.”
The Vale-Steelworkers campaign is a “huge part” of the organization's core funding for the year, Mills said.
She said it's overwhelming how the campaign reached an eight-year high, given the current business climate and the numerous other charities competing for fundraising dollars.
Mills said the United Way will announce its 2013 campaign total in late January. While the organization didn't set a specific fundraising goal for 2013, it is trying to raise $7 million over the next three years.
Vale employees Tina Vincent-Gagnon and Ashley Thibeault worked together behind the scenes on the fundraising campaign. They trained co-workers to give presentations about the United Way in Vale's various plants.
Vincent-Gagnon said about 33 per cent of Vale's 5,000 employees contributed either through direct payroll deductions or cash donations. The women also sent letters to about 4,000 Vale retirees, resulting in even more donations.
Many Vale plants also had fundraisers such as barbecues and golf tournaments in benefit of the United Way, Vincent-Gagnon said.
All in all, Vale employees and retirees are a very generous bunch, she said.
“When it comes down to the crunch, I find they're all there to help,” Vincent-Gagnon said.