On one hand, those who ran the campaign were thrilled that $2,075,000 was raised this year, exceeding last year's total — $1.96 million — by about six per cent. That's about 30 per cent of the organization's $7-million three-year campaign goal.
But the announcement was made with the knowledge that former Rainbow District School Board director of education Jean Hanson, who was supposed to be this year's campaign chair, is in the last stages of life at Maison Vale Hospice.
After the announcement, Patricia Mills, who became campaign chair last fall after Hanson had to bow out due to illness, headed over to the hospice to bring Hanson a lifetime achievement award from the United Way.
“She's an incredible, selfless volunteer who has spent a lot of hours working towards this campaign,” said Mills, publisher of several of Northern Life's sister publications, including Northern Ontario Business and Sudbury Living Magazine.
“I know in the last few months that her only focus was launching this campaign and making it successful. So we wanted to acknowledge her contribution.”
Mills, who was supposed to spend the year as the campaign's vice-chair, and being mentored by Hanson, said being suddenly thrust into the leadership role was a bit like taking a “polar dip.”
“Instead of a nice ease into the situation, I just went in cold,” she said. “Literally, that's the first thought that comes to my mind. I took my polar dip, and I survived. I survived and did well because of the support of the staff and the volunteers.”
She said she was inspired by all of the people who led the workplace campaigns that are largely responsible for the United Way's fundraising success.
“They are just go-getters,” Mills said.
United Way Sudbury and Nipissing Districts' campaign manager, Katherine Cockburn, said she's happy with this year's total, and she believes the organization will meet its three-year target.
“Our community is very generous,” she said. “I think there are lots of people who don't know about what United Way does, and would like to give back to our community.”
Cockburn said Mills did an amazing job with the campaign.
“She really has risen to the occasion, and I loved working with her every minute,” she said.
Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Greater Sudbury is just one of the two dozen organizations that receive funding from United Way Sudbury and Nipissing Districts.
Executive director Chantal Gladu said the local United Way provides 23 per cent of the organization's overall budget.
Without that support, staff would have to spend more time fundraising, taking them away from their work of matching children up with caring adults.
“It would really have a negative impact,” she said.
Being on hand to see this year's fundraising total was “very exciting,” as it demonstrates how the community works to support local charities, Gladu said.