United Way President and CEO Karen Young with 5-year old Delilah

United Way President and CEO Karen Young with 5-year old Delilah.

2022 was a year of seeking stability. As our community began to move beyond the uncertainty of the pandemic that created so many challenges, we at United Way of Calgary and Area found ourselves moving forward with renewed confidence as we addressed new challenges.

That sense of stability created more opportunities for us to engage with donors and community members from all walks of life, which is epitomized in the story of long-time donors David and Leslie Bissett and five-year-old donor Delilah. In 2022, the Bissetts made a $1 million donation to All In for Youth’s Success Coach program, which has helped reduce high school dropout rates across Calgary for the past ten years. 2022 also brought us the distinct and wonderful pleasure of meeting Delilah, who promptly set up a lemonade stand after learning from her mom about United Way’s work to help kids in our community. Upon hearing of the creative and thoughtful entrepreneurial efforts of United Way’s youngest fundraiser, President and CEO, Karen Young invited Delilah into our office for a visit.

The “You” in United Way


United Way President and CEO Karen Young with Pembina President and CEO Scott Burrows.

Every year we work with incredible people and organizations who generously dedicate their time, talent, thought, and energy to building a better tomorrow for the people of our community. We cannot thank our incredible volunteers enough for the hundreds of hours they contribute every year. Consider the GAIN team, a group of highly skilled professionals and leaders from the private and public sectors who partner with agencies to support four areas of the agencies’ business operations: board governance; strategic business and financial planning; leadership coaching; and IT assessment. Guided by United Way in their work with nearly 50 agencies, members of the GAIN team contributed thousands of hours of volunteer time last year.

United Way of Calgary and Area could not make the impact we do without the incredible energy we receive through our Sponsored Employee program. In 2022 we had 11 people that were seconded to our team via workplaces and businesses across Calgary. Their skills and expertise are invaluable in bringing new insights, drive and excitement to our team.

We would need more space to list all the outstanding workplaces in and around Calgary that put United Way front and centre with their annual teambuilding and fundraising efforts. A veritable “circle of energy and goodwill” results from hundreds of these workplace campaigns, energizing and fueling United Way as we support our partner agencies in their equally committed efforts to create better tomorrows for everyone. Every single dollar from the millions raised via corporate, employee, and special events will be invested back into the community.

We would also like to thank our Women United Committee, Gen Next Committee, Major, Leader and Campaign Cabinets. If you’re interested in volunteering with United Way of Calgary and area, or with our partner agencies, there are so many ways you can get involved. We would also like to extend a warm salute to our outstanding Speakers Bureau, who donate their time and energy to share their experiences with workplaces throughout our community.

The City of Calgary’s United Way bus pull, photo courtesy Aryn Toombs and LiveWire Calgary.

The Lifelines of Calgary’s Agencies and Organizations

Last year we had the opportunity to meet many people and organizations directly impacted by our community’s generosity. People like Vincenzo, who overcame intergenerational trauma and with help from United Way-supported agencies, began a journey of healing with his family. And there was Carolina, who came to Canada as a political refugee and found financial stability with Momentum, a vital agency that applies individual business counselling and support to community economic development.

We also introduced you to members of Poverty Talks!, a lived-experience group that advises the Enough For All strategy, which is educating and informing perspectives around poverty and the inflation crisis that has been gripping our community. Because of your support, Enough for All, Poverty Talks! and many other partner organizations are working to make poverty history in Calgary.

Throughout 2022 it became evident to United Way and our agency partners that the pandemic – with its negative social and economic effects – is still making its presence felt in our community. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the current state of the mental health of our children and youth. The isolation of COVID has created significant gaps in youth’s social, emotional, and educational experiences, leaving them struggling with even more stress and anxiety than usual and with significantly reduced access to coping mechanisms and tools. As we look ahead in the new year, a major focus for United Way will be creating supports and tools for our children and youth to strengthen their mental health, assist with their educational focus and opportunities, and facilitate the development of resiliency.

Through the Looking Glass of 2022

It became clear as we progressed through 2022 and saw the move from the pandemic cycle of recovery/non-recovery to the start and continuance of the inflation crisis that community need was only increasing and becoming more urgent and that this pattern would continue in 2023.

As we look ahead, we see more of the same challenges and undoubtedly many new ones. But with equal certainty, United Way believes that we can create a better tomorrow for everyone, thanks to your energy and support.