By Trevor Busch - LETHBRIDGE HERALD on September 14, 2021.
After eight decades serving the people of Lethbridge and southern Alberta, the local United Way is ready to do a little celebrating in 2021 as they kick off their annual fundraising campaign season.
To highlight the 80-year milestone anniversary, organization members and dignitaries gathered for a United Way flag raising at City Hall on Monday morning.
“It’s a big day for United Way of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta. This marks our campaign kick off for the 2021 campaign season, and we’re really excited for you to be here for this,” said Janelle Marietta, executive director with the local branch. “Pretty important news for United Way in particular, Lethbridge is actually celebrating our 80th anniversary of the United Way campaign in the Lethbridge area.”
Started as a Community Chest in 1941 to address the funding needs of the community after the outbreak of the Second World War, the City of Lethbridge joined together with local service clubs, labour and other organizations to fundraise. Through a unified fundraising campaign which shared the proceeds, the first campaign headed by lawyer R.R. Davidson raised just over $56,000.
“So a really important date. Particularly important this year as we look at the history of United Way,” said Marietta.
Originally “Give the United Way” was a campaign slogan for Community Chests across Canada and the U.S. but was eventually adopted as the organizational brand in the 1970s. Although there is a focus on solving a common set of issues, each local branch is independently operated, and works to address the unique needs of local communities.
According to the local branch, in 2020 United Way of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta provided funding support to 14 community agencies in the region through its Community Fund. In 2021, there are 13 United Way partners operating programs and services for poverty reduction, individual and community wellness, and positive child and youth development. These include programs like the Baby Bundle at Interfaith Food Bank, supports for people with disabilities at Inclusion Lethbridge and Inclusion Foothills, and mentoring programs for children at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lethbridge & District.
“Eighty years fast-forward, we’re here today, and we’re responding to different needs in the community, but totally important needs in the community,” said Marietta. “Particularly this year as we go through the pandemic.”
Also on Sunday, Sept. 19, City Hall will be lit up in red in celebration of the local United Way’s 80th anniversary.