The Trail and District United Way has been supporting the citizens of the area since 1928 in one form or another and although they have seen a dip in local donations recently the local charity is still determined to continue making a difference in the Greater Trail area.
“Donations have been down the last couple of years,” said Naomi McKimmie, local Executive Director of the united Way. “Not significantly yet but enough so that we, as well as our member agencies, are feeling it.”
Although the agency still managed to support 21 programs through 15 member agencies with funds raised in 2012, it was still reduced from the previous year.
“I think it’s a combination of a number of factors,” said McKimmie. “People feel as if they don’t have as much spare cash, our donor base has been shrinking because of the aging population, youth aren’t as involved with charities as they once might have been and all the charities are after the same slice of pie.”
The community based charity begun in Trail in 1928 as the “Community Chest” by the Independent Order of Daughters of the Empire (I.O.D.E.) with the charter that, “Each of us individuals has the duty of showing in practical ways to alleviate suffering and re-kindle hope in our community.”
The organization remained the Community Chest until 1970 when it became the Trail and District United Appeal, finally arriving at its current name in 1975.
The United Way is now an international organization that works in communities by acting as a central collection point for donations, which then distributes the funds to the various smaller charities in the area. This reduces the number of appeals that individual citizens can be subjected to in a year and offers an easy way for people to help support the needy in their communities.
The agency maintains a comparatively small operating budget with over 85 per cent of donations going into local programs, the remainder going to paying membership fees to the national office, as well as paying the wages for one employee, three days a week.
Still, the local organization is trying to keep up with the times by offering alternative methods of making donations as well as maintaining its existing payroll deduction programs and various other donation avenues.
“We now have the ability to accept credit card donations at the local level,” said McKimmie. “We’re also part of the ‘Change it’ program through the Credit Unions. When you purchase anything with a debit card they round the amount of the purchase up to the next dollar and that is donated to the charity of your choice.”
The agency recently held a poster contest for elementary school students in the area introduce them to the concept of what the charitable organization strives to do and help raise awareness of the programs they support.
The contest garnered entries from 79 students from across the southern end of School District 20, including school kids from Fruitvale, Trail and Rossland. The top three entrants were awarded certificates and Walmart gift cards at the area United Way AGM Wednesday night.
In the kindergarten to grade two group the top prize was taken by Chase Hollis of Glenmerry Elementary, the grade three to five group winner was grade three Fruitvale Elementary student Anna Chin, and for grade six and sevens Aby Elwood of Glenmerry. Elwood’s creation also took overall prize and will be used as a flyer for the United Way’s advertising campaign prior to their United Way in the Park celebration in September.
Although donations are down for the local agency they are still finding new programs to support in the area. They have recently begun supporting the La Nina Extreme Weather Shelter, the Getting to Home project for the local homeless, and the Stars for Success program which is part of the Success by Six program.
“The money we raise in this area goes to families in this area, Trail, Rossland, and Fruitvale,” said McKimmie. “Even if this doesn’t affect someone’s family directly it might your neighbours. These donations aren’t meant as a handout, they’re a hand up.”