United Way goal for 2011 is $33.5 million

OTTAWA — Amid lots of hoopla from young performers from the Canadian School of Dance, mounds of falling confetti and a spirited speech by campaign chair Max Keeping, the United Way kicked off its 2011 fundraising campaign Thursday by announcing its target of $33.5 million, the most ambitious goal in its history.

The record target comes as the United Way faces the challenges of an uncertain economy, downsizing in the public service and a provincial election. But the goal is within reach, said United Way officials at the breakfast launch held at the Aberdeen Pavilion.

“There are many of the same challenges that we face every year,” said Michael Allen, president and CEO of the United Way. “Making sure in a busy, busy community with a provincial election on and so many people going about their lives, taking a moment to reflect on the good fortune that we have as a community, the opportunity we have to step forward to help others and have them participate in this campaign. So that’s why this launch is so important,” he said.

He said people need to remember that there are other segments of the population that need the help of more fortunate individuals in the city.

“Our biggest challenge is to make sure people are aware”, he added.

Last year, the United Way surpassed its $33.1 million goal, raising a record $33.2 million during the campaign.

Allen said one in six people in Ottawa give to the United Way. He said that is a testament to the caring and generosity of the community.

The 2011 campaign will involve about 14,000 volunteers in more than 1,200 workplaces across the city.

Keeping said he was buoyed by the spirit by the 1,200 supporters in the Aberdeen Pavilion.

“In this community if you think about over the years how many times we’ve had uncertain circumstances, but people always realize times are going to be difficult and that more people will be in need so they tend to be generous. I’m very optimistic about reaching the goal. In spite of whatever anxiety there may be people will continue to realize that there are a lot of people who are hurting and we can do something about it.”

The United Way this year is particularly hoping to improve conditions for children and youth, seniors, immigrants and people with disabilities, the homeless, individuals facing mental illness and addictions and families in crisis.

The 10-week campaign ends Dec. 2 with a ceremony at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

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