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Making connections for Shannon and others

At the United Way, we often hear from non-profit organizations looking for talented individuals to join their boards. And we hear from community-minded people ready to invest some of their time giving back.

Indeed, more and more people are getting in touch, not sure where to start on their journey.

People like Shannon Manuel, a Saint Johner who moved out to Alberta for a while before coming back.

In Wetaskiwin, Alta., she helped women connect with other female entrepreneurs and leaders. She still remembers the day she invited some in the community for an informal chat at the local coffee shop to discuss creating their growing businesses and building their network – and 40 women showed up.

From that day on, it wasn’t hard for her to see how her involvement was making a difference to people and to the community. She loved it, and missed it after coming back home to Saint John.

She rang us looking for suggestions.

“What I really liked about the approach is that it wasn’t ‘OK, here is a board you could join.’ It was more ‘What are you passionate about? Where do you want to make a difference?’” Shannon recalls.

After that exploration, we introduced her to the Saint John Women’s Empowerment Network.

Shannon didn’t waste much time in getting involved, and even drafted colleagues at RBC Royal Bank to join her in establishing a mentorship program to keep the momentum going for women who had gone through the network’s PowerUp program. They launched their brand new mentorship program on March 8, International Women’s Day.

And she’ll soon be looking for ways to get more active with the board of directors. Building strong and diverse boards is important to growing sustainable and impactful organizations in Saint John, Kings and Charlotte counties.

We are delighted to undertake this kind of introduction – making connections that make a difference.


Helping non-profit leaders grow and succeed

When Chelsie Nightingale was hired as the executive director of the Multicultural Association of Sussex about 18 months ago, it marked a couple of firsts.

She was the first staff member for the previously all-volunteer organization, and it was the first time she headed up a non-profit organization.

After the pandemic hit, she sought emergency funding from the United Way to help keep the organization moving forward. Through the application process, United Way staff identified her as a young leader who could benefit from mentoring.

As part of our mission to build strong, resilient non-profit organizations in our communities and to help leaders grow their skills, we have been offering mentoring to leaders in the sector – particularly ones new to their roles like Chelsie.

She was paired with management consultant Pat Stafford. They have regular mentoring sessions, with Pat providing advice on leadership, governance, communication, strategic planning, key performance indicators and more.

All this as the association was staffing up rapidly to serve newcomers to the area.

It’s a tremendous support for Chelsie, who – like most non-profit leaders – have no manual to work from.

“For me personally, this has really helped me grow. It was something so new for me. It’s been wonderful,” Chelsie says.

“It’s really helped us as an organization structure what we need. It has helped us step back and assess what we need to survive and to grow.”


A heart-warming example of how the generosity of donors to the United Way’s Atlantic Compassion Fund is the Eastern Charlotte Association for Community Living, which was able to connect two close friends with intellectual disabilities on regular video calls through loaner tablets.

Compassion in the face of great uncertainty

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and pushed us into lockdown last March, all 11 United Ways across Atlantic Canada mobilized to raise funds to meet sudden and basic needs in our communities, establishing the Atlantic Compassion Fund.

The generosity was immediate. Atlantic Business Interiors was the founding donor of the ACF, matching the first $100,000 in donations across Atlantic Canada, and thoughtful organizations and citizens across all four provinces stepped up.

This meant more than $285,000 for aid here for the Saint John, Kings & Charlotte region, helping our community organizations meet pressing needs of those most marginalized, react to evolving and emerging community needs and to support initiatives that are rebuilding and bringing our community back together.

A heart-warming example of how this generosity brought compassion in anxious times was at the Eastern Charlotte Association for Community Living, which was able to connect two close friends with intellectual disabilities on regular video calls through loaner tablets. 

Both young men are non-verbal but are accustomed to seeing each other every day through programming offered by the association. The COVID-19 pandemic forced them to isolate with their families, leaving them more than 200 kilometres apart. Through the Atlantic Compassion Fund, these pals are able to reconnect and see each other every day.

This is just one small but meaningful example of the impact the fund made during uncertain times, and we are grateful for how donors and organizations alike rallied to help. For more information, see the Atlantic Compassion Fund page on our website.


Saint John Energy workers present a donation to Outflow last February, before the pandemic hit.

 

Saint John Energy: Generously giving back

At Saint John Energy, giving back to the community is part of its mission. Not only is it part of the corporate culture, but the employees believe deeply as well.

The local energy company, recently saluted by the online news outlet Huddle for its philosophy of giving, is an exemplary partner of the United Way, leveraging our investment advisor service to invest more than $50,000 every year in community organizations and programs.

Employees generously give to the United Way through payroll deductions and one-time gifts that are again matched by the company.

And they were one of the very first to step up to support COVID-19 relief efforts, giving generously to the Atlantic Compassion Fund that helped bring emergency relief from the onset of the pandemic.

Their giving spirit shone through in those early days of the pandemic, when Saint John Energy and its employees raised more than $23,000 “going bananas” over a banana bread fundraiser.

Thank you, Saint John Energy. Your dedication to the community truly is inspiring.


Helping frontline workers at community non-profits

An essential focus of the United Way is ensuring that the non-profit organizations so vital to our communities are strong and robust. Maintaining that vigor has been especially important during the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has not only significantly increased the workload of non-profit leaders, managers and frontline workers but led to an increase in mental health issues.

To address this need, the United Way has partnered with Family Plus Life Solutions to provide a four-part workshop series geared to teaching and supporting workers at local non-profit organizations.

The workshops, funded by the United Way, are designed to help reduce burnout,

compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma. The aim is to give workers guidance so that they have the emotional, physical and professional stamina to continue to do their demanding work for the community. So far, seven workshops have been held and more are planned for the new year.

Cathy Halstead, community school co-ordinator for Milltown Elementary School, tells us the information provided to her during the workshop has been an enormous help.

“Self-care is not a suggestion, it is a requirement,” Cathy says. “I am aware that people in the helping profession often ‘torture’ themselves with dehydration, sleep deprivation, malnutrition and self-isolation. I am making a conscious effort to drink water, get to bed early, eat nutritious meals and make time for friends and family.”

The first workshop dealt with the personal mental health of the frontline workers themselves, enlightening them on the importance of taking care of one’s self before taking on the issues of other people. The old cliché, “you can’t give what you don’t have” was the essence of this workshop.

Other workshops provided awareness and insights into the issues that surface in the helping professions when the complexities of community, global and personal crisis intersect, information on community resources, and a check-in to share information and what works best.