Anna smiles in her home away from home: United Way of Calgary and Area's campaign associate bullpen

When I was a kid, my aunt had a rule about money: “Save a third, give a third, spend a third.” After graduating from university, I was offered a position at Imperial and had the option to settle in several cities. I chose Calgary, not knowing this random decision would turn into a love affair. There’s just something about this city. The people are very welcoming, and you don’t have to be born here to quickly feel like a Calgarian, which is pretty unique.

For the past eight years I have taken my aunt’s words to heart, donating my time, money, and energy to United Way. My love for Calgary is one of the driving forces behind my passion and support, which I consider an investment in my city – one that must achieve results.

When I consider my donation, I look at the results United Way has achieved and what their forward-looking plans are. One of the reasons I support the organization is because I’m interested in impactful results, not Band-Aid solutions. I’m proud of what United Way is able to accomplish.

Being open about giving at such a high level isn’t something that comes easily to me. It’s not in my nature to talk about donating. But I’ve come to realize that talking about it and normalizing it is really important. It shouldn’t be an afterthought. It should be a priority.


We are all Calgary.

Together, we are all stronger. Meet a few of the 178,700 people who are helped each year.

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How you can help

Donate

Gifts of as little as $25 have a huge impact in our community. Support meal programs to help end poverty, help kids succeed, and build strong communities.

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Rama, her husband, and two daughters smile while sitting in a community program in their new home in Canada

My family had a good life in Syria before the war. My husband was a lawyer and I taught at the local university. But after the war began, our lives quickly changed. I would say goodbye to my daughter every time I left the house, unsure if I’d ever return. When it became too dangerous to even walk out our front door, we knew it was time to re-locate.

 

 

We were scared and increasing hopeless as we waited for our refugee application to be approved. When we finally arrived in Canada, it was a huge relief. A life in our new country brought safety, but also a new language and culture. We felt lonely and overwhelmed. We quickly realized we’d need more help to settle in our new home.

Fortunately, we met some fellow Syrians who told us about a United Way funded agency that provides newcomers like us with support and settlement services. They helped us access health care, get insurance, and provided us with daycare for our daughter so we could take language lessons. I was especially grateful for the social aspects of the agency’s programming. They not only help newcomers integrate into the community, they also help our community get to know us. They helped us turn our community into a home.

Today, when I think of the future, I have hope. I am incredibly grateful to United Way donors who help new Canadians like me thrive in my new community.


We are all Calgary.

Together, we are all stronger. Meet a few of the 178,700 people like Rama who are helped each year.

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Jerilyn smiles while standing in Distress Centre Calgary's call centre

I never intended to be a social worker. As a psychology undergraduate student looking to build practical skills, I started volunteering at Distress Centre Calgary, a United Way funded agency, nearly two decades ago. The experience changed the direction of my life.

When I learned about the agency’s crisis line and on-site counselling services, I was amazed. There were times, growing up in a small town, when I didn’t have anyone to talk to. To be able to call a line where you know someone is there waiting for your call—that would have meant the world to me.

 

 

Volunteering at the agency’s 24-hour 211 telephone line, which helps people at all levels of distress, inspired me to pursue a master’s degree in social work.

Today, I am the agency’s executive director, and I provide leadership to a team of dedicated and compassionate staff and volunteers, many of whom have experienced their own personal struggles.

The crisis line is a critical community service, especially for the one in five people who will struggle with a mental illness in any given year. I am grateful to United Way donors who are instrumental in enabling us to provide this vital service in our community. I definitely wouldn’t be the person that I am today without the Distress Centre.


We are all Calgary.

Together, we are all stronger. Meet a few of the 178,700 people who are helped each year.

Read more stories

How you can help

Share 211

211 is a 24/7 helpline available in over 150 languages that connects people with supports.

Learn more

Donate

Support programs like 211 to help end poverty, help kids succeed, and build strong communities.

Give today

 

 

Alasdair stands in the very kitchen that helped him when he needed a meal

I worked in the food and hospitality industry for most of my life. When I lost my job, I worried about where my next meal would come from. For a while, money was really tight and then got to a point where I couldn’t even afford a meal.

Living in poverty can make you feel helpless. My self-esteem was at an all-time low and I was afraid for the future. Feeling lost, I decided to stop by a United Way funded agency that provides services and free meals to those in need.

 

 

Having access to a nutritious meal can make a real difference in a person’s life. Not having to worry about where my next meal was coming from allowed me to focus on other things. I accessed skill-building programs offered at the agency and my confidence started to grow. Then, an opportunity to volunteer in the same kitchen that fed me when I most needed it arose, and I was able to contribute and give back and help in my own way.

For people living in poverty, having access to a healthy meal is important. But sharing a meal means a lot, too. It makes people feel better about themselves — and it builds a real community.

Today, I have a full-time job at a community centre. I am also proud to say I continue to volunteer at the kitchen — because I know just how life-changing one meal can be.


We are all Calgary.

Together, we are all stronger. Meet a few of the 178,700 people like Alasdair who are helped each year.

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How you can help

Donate

Support meal programs to help end poverty, help kids succeed, and build strong communities.

Give today

 

Randy stands in his traditional beaded vest in Calgary

As a young person, I was lucky enough to have had amazing teachers who molded me, guided me, and prepared me for the journey I am on. The knowledge and wisdom they shared with me has shaped me into the person I am.

Today, there are Indigenous youth in our city who have been impacted by the dark period of our history. While they belong to a long line of survivors – resilient people who were proud of their spirituality – many have also lost their connection to our rich history and culture. This has impacted their families.

As a knowledge keeper, I feel it is my responsibility to share positive aspects of our history and our people, the beauty of our way of life, the purpose behind it. Now that I'm in the position to share what I've learned, I use every opportunity I have to connect with young people, to support them as they gain the skills and confidence they need to become leaders.

Natoo’si, United Way’s Indigenous Healing and Well-Being Initiative, supports youth and their families in their healing process. It provides young people with the tools they need to heal, and to succeed in school and in life. Once they begin the healing process, they feel good about themselves. And when youth feel good about themselves, they start to contribute to their community. I believe the holistic approach that Natoo’si takes has a real impact on not only our youth or their families, but on our communities as well.


We are all Calgary.

Together, we are all stronger. Meet a few of the 178,700 people who are helped each year.

Read more stories

How you can help

Donate

Your donation supports Calgarians to overcome poverty, helps kids succeed, and builds strong communities.

Give today