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Our Community Work





A night of inspiration, courage and song

An evening of song, music and courage, Songs of the City came roaring back to life at the Imperial Theatre this month.

After two years of lockdowns and pandemic restrictions, the United Way celebration was a symbol of re-emergence and rebirth for so many in the audience and onstage.

“Those two years did a lot of damage mentally and physically. I fell into one of the darkest places I never wanted to go. I was truly losing control and I myself became like a person I did not want to be,” says one of the onstage storytellers, Lorna Reinhart.

The opportunity to share her story of courage in front of the audience and then be celebrated with a song written just for her and performed live by Jessica Rhaye with Prepper & MacKay was transformative.

“It truly was one of the best experiences I have ever had,” Lorna shared later. “The song was amazing and so very fitting. I would recommend to anyone that if given the chance to take the leap it was very freeing for me.”

Others, from a teen musician to a recovering alcoholic, took to the stage through the evening of June 1 to share their own stories of transformation thanks to the support of United Way-funded organizations.

Local musicians lent their talents to pay tribute to the storytellers through original song and live performances.

The evening drew laughter to tears as the audience learned how powerful the United Way and the organizations we support can be as a catalyst for change for those with the will to make their lives better.

“Every story had that trigger moment where you caught yourself fighting back tears. It was always when someone breaks through whatever challenge was keeping them down. Amazing,” one audience member remarked later. “All the organizations highlighted do such great work. Thank you and well done.”

Look for another inspiring Songs of the City event in 2023!




Strengthening leaders in our nonprofit sector

For Mallory Curwin, the United Way has helped make her own first steps at First Steps Housing Project in Saint John more confident during a time that has been difficult for many charitable organizations.

Mallory became executive director of First Steps last year, during the height of the COVID pandemic when social and financial constraints challenged the charity’s fundraising goals and tested community support.

First Steps, a multi-service centre for pregnant and parenting young women, has operated in Saint John for 20 years and is a funded partner of United Way.

But the United Way support extends beyond the financial. Charitable organizations, even those who are not funded partners, benefit from programs and services we offer to keep the non-profit sector in our region strong.

In Mallory’s case, we were able to provide a mentor during her first months of her taking the helm at First Steps. She and others at the organization also benefited from coaching skills training and from a session with other charities on collaboration in the nonprofit sector.

“The United Way has provided numerous workshops and help wherever we needed it,” Mallory says. “I feel that without their help, I really would not have been able to succeed in the way I have over the last year.”

The First Steps program is designed to help break the cycle of poverty that traps so many young mothers and their children. The organization offers services to both pregnant and parenting young women that include mental health care, education, addiction services and child care.

Young women are encouraged to further develop parenting skills, financial management, and complete their high school education or a training program. They are then given the opportunity to live in a subsidized apartment through a program called Second Steps.

Mallory is grateful for the help the United Way has been able to provide, noting that it has strengthened management staff and helped her feel more confident and supported during a challenging time for the agency.

“I had a lot of things I had to rebuild both in the community and in-house. Through the mentoring I had, I was able to talk through those issues and get the help I needed to turn things around. It was a year of rebuilding and we now are back to having a full house of women and children and being able to offer our services in the same way we have for 20 years,” she says.

“I don’t think I could have caught on quite as quickly as I did without having the support and being able to call for advice from someone who is on our side. It would have taken me a lot longer to achieve what I have over the last year without the help of the United Way. I am very thankful.”


Songs of the City is back!

We’re so excited to announce that Songs of the City is back as a live, in-person event – set for the Imperial Theatre in Saint John.

Buy your tickets today for the June 1 extravaganza before they sell out!

Presented by Creamer Ervin Wealth Management, Songs of the City celebrates community through storytelling and song. It is an opportunity to raise awareness and to say thank you to community members for their generosity and support to the people we all live, work, and play with every day.

This year’s Songs of the City will feature performances by Brent Mason, Catherine Kennedy, Jessica Rhaye with Preeper & MacKay, MXCHAELSHABAZZ and sadie. You’ll also hear heartening stories from individuals whose lives have been transformed by United Way funded partners.

The inaugural Songs of the City event in 2019 was a sell-out show with more than 800 people in attendance – this one is sure to be the same.

Tickets for the 7 p.m. show are $10 each and can be purchased through the Imperial Theatre box office. For more information, visit our website.

Foghorn Brewing believes in giving back

Giving back to the community has always been a part of the culture for Foghorn Brewing Company.

For co-founders Steve Russell and Andrew Estabrooks, giving back to the community was baked into the business plan.

When they heard about the Quarter Club, a collective of small businesses that pledge to give a combined $250,000 over five years to the United Way, it seemed like a perfect way to go.

It allowed them to give back to the community in a targeted way, harnessing the power of collective giving, with impacts that could be measured and with the reassurance of having United Way support and advice. They knew the support would be going exactly where it was needed most.

They knew of others in the hospitality industry in the region – including their friends at McGill’s and Pomodori – who were interested in the Quarter Club concept and joined them as founding members. They knew of frequent customers who believed in and supported the United Way.

“Knowing the good the United Way does and having friends and colleagues also committed to the cause made it an easy decision to commit our fundraising efforts to the Quarter Club and its goal,” Steve says.

Three years ago, Foghorn launched a special brew to celebrate International Women’s Day and women in the manufacturing and hospitality industries.

This month, in collaboration with women at craft breweries and cideries in the region, they released Sparkölsch, a limited-edition beer with a clean, crisp flavour and a true sparkle, owing to the food-grade sparkles in the brew.

Proceeds from sales went toward Foghorn’s annual commitment to the Quarter Club, which supports mental health programs and services that break the cycle of domestic violence.

More information on the Quarter Club and the impact it is having is available on the United Way website.



Help wanted: Volunteers drive essential service for residents

Dial-a-ride programs in our region are lifelines.

So many people depend on these services to help them get out for essentials like food and medical appointments as well as assisting them in opening up opportunities for a better future through job interviews and access to programs.

The United Way helps fund two of these indispensable services in our region – Charlotte Dial A Ride and Dial A Ride Fundy Regional Transportation.

But both are today confronted with such a demand for their services that they do not have enough drivers to keep up. As a consequence, they are faced with having to limit their services.

If you are looking for a way to give back to your community, a way to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others, this could be your opportunity.

With additional volunteers, these services will be better equipped to meet the needs of our region. They will not have to break the bad news to clients that there aren’t enough volunteer drivers to help them.

For more information on how to become a volunteer driver, visit Charlotte Dial A Ride and Dial A Ride Fundy Regional Transportation on the web.

Congratulations to our 19 funded partners

To Chelsie Nightingale, the money her organization will receive from United Way this year represents a remarkable difference to her organization and the people it serves.

And Chelsie, executive director of the Multicultural Association of Sussex, couldn’t be more thrilled. The funding will help support language training for newcomers.

“Language is the cornerstone to settlement. It not only helps newcomers to achieve employment, but it is an important component to being an active member of a community, building relationships and achieving overall well-being,” she says. “United Way funding will fill the gap in accessing language services in Kings County and creating a stronger community for all.”

The association is one of 19 organizations that will collectively be receiving $1.08 million in funding from United Way this year as funded partners. The association is one of two new funded partners for 2022, joining Dial A Ride Fundy Regional Transportation as another first-time recipient.

For all the details, read our press release here.

From left, Quarter Club members Shane Borthwick and Emily and Corey McGill

Quarter Club: Business as a force for good

A few years ago, entrepreneurs Emily and Corey McGill and Shane Borthwick were searching for a way that their businesses could make a difference in the region.

A series of meetings with United Way led to the creation of the Quarter Club – a community of inspiring leaders using business as a force for good.

Together, this collective of leaders has pledged a quarter of a million dollars over five years to United Way Saint John, Kings & Charlotte so they can invest in solutions to break the cycle of domestic violence and help individuals and families access mental health supports – two critical issues impacting our region.

The Quarter Club is modelled after the Million Dollar Pledge, a group of business leaders in the region that together pledged $1 million over 10 years to invest in improving academic outcomes for children and youth.

Shane and the McGills liked the Million Dollar model but were searching for a way that smaller businesses could take part. That led to the Quarter Club launching in 2019 with 13 members. That has grown to 15 today.

In joining together, club members are able to amplify the power of their investments and benefit from the insights and assurances of return on investment that United Way brings.

Corey and Emily were looking for an effective way to maximize the impact that their restaurant, McGill’s, makes in its charitable giving.

Through the Quarter Club, they can not only magnify that impact but they can meet with the organizations that benefit from their donations and see the difference that support is making in Saint John and beyond.

“We feel very passionate about giving back to the community. And with this we can make a strong impact. It’s not just $100 here, $100 there – this can make a big impact,” says Emily, whose own HR consultancy, Emily McGill Professionals, will join the Quarter Club this year.

“Getting more businesses involved will only magnify that impact.”

She vividly remembers meeting with Second Stage Housing to see and understand how the Quarter Club’s funding was benefiting the transition program for women who have suffered domestic abuse. And the day when her daughter told her about the personal wellness sessions at her school – also funded through Quarter Club donations.

For Shane, it has meant that he has confidence that donations from his company, Impact Wealth, are moving the needle in addressing social issues.

And for him, the focus isn’t the monetary value but that the support is helping to strengthen the region in which he lives and works.

With the challenges brought on by the pandemic, Shane says the need to grow the collective is even greater.

“This is about like-minded, purpose-driven entrepreneurs in the region helping address serious issues in the community like poverty, domestic violence and mental health,” he says. “This is an important initiative addressing needs that have only been amplified by the pandemic.”

More information on the Quarter Club and the impact it is having, visit the United Way website


Partnering with Emera New Brunswick to empower deserving students

At the United Way, we believe strongly in education as an empowering force. That’s why we’re excited to share with you news of the United for Success Awards.

These new awards, funded by the United Way and Emera New Brunswick, are designed to remove barriers to post-secondary education for individuals who have been supported by our funded partners. In the first, pilot year we will partner with First Steps, Saint John Learning Exchange and the Teen Resource Centre to distribute these awards.

Designed for students demonstrating a high level of commitment to their studies despite having overcome barriers to get to university or college, the United for Success Award is worth up to $2,000 a year per recipient.

We’re tremendously grateful to Emera New Brunswick for making this award program possible in 2021, a pilot year for the initiative. Ryan O’Hara, general manager for Emera New Brunswick, says the company is pleased to be partnering with the United Way. “The United Way has a deep understanding of our community and the organizations that are making a measurable difference in helping those that need it most.”

“We are proud to support innovative initiatives involving youth, especially ones that will help to break down barriers,” says Ryan. “We are looking forward to seeing the difference that these funds will make for some of the region’s most-deserving students.”

More details will be unveiled when the awards are officially launched later this month.

Carol Gabanna, HR Atlantic

Strengthening organizations in our region 

As part of our mission to help build strong and resilient non-profits, the United Way Saint John Kings & Charlotte is holding board governance training sessions this fall.

Open to all executive directors and non-profit boards in our region, the sessions facilitated by Carol Gabanna from HR Atlantic are aimed at strengthening the effectiveness and strategic approach of directors on local boards.

The training, to be held in October and November, will be held in virtual two-hour sessions.

Participants can take in one, two or three sessions. The cost of these sessions will be subsidized by the United Way so that cost is only $10 per session.

More information and registration is available on our website. Seats are limited, so sign up early!


Building stronger communities after the pandemic

As the pandemic first descended on communities across Canada last year, the federal government created the Emergency Community Response Fund and partnered with United Way Canada and others to distribute $350 million to charities and non-profits that provide crucial resources and services to vulnerable Canadians.

Through that fund, the United Way Saint John, Kings & Charlotte distributed nearly $560,000 to dozens of local organizations providing indispensable help to people across the region.

The funding allowed for many services to be offered online for the first time, including classroom instruction, tutoring and mentoring, activities for seniors and outreach to women in recovery. It allowed for the expansion of meals on wheels services for vulnerable seniors, the purchase of home medical devices, and language support for newcomer youth, and so much more.

In some cases, this funding has sparked services that will endure beyond the pandemic and this relief funding – standing as testaments to how the United Way’s approach to funding for impact helps build stronger communities.

Read on for two heart-warming examples of how this support is making a difference in the lives of domestic violence survivors and seniors.

Lisa’s Story: Escaping an abusive relationship

Helping the seniors of Campobello Island


Join the United Way at Area 506!

Once again, we are partnering with Area 506 to drive support and awareness.

And you can help.

We need volunteers to work on our behalf as table servers at the popular Saint John outdoor concert event. All tips and donations come back to the United Way Saint John, Kings & Charlotte as the charity of choice for the event!

Show your #locallove and sign up today to become a United Way volunteer at Area 506. As a bonus, you will experience all the concert series has to offer during your volunteer shifts.

Unlike past years where it was a one-weekend affair, Area 506 is a five-week series in 2021 – taking place every Friday and Saturday night from July 16 to Aug 14.

Don’t delay in joining us at this amazing event! To grab one of the remaining volunteer spots and for more details, check out our volunteer sign-up page online.


Building stronger leaders in the non-profit sector

As a part of our mission to strengthen the nonprofit sector, the United Way Saint John, Kings & Charlotte believes in fostering strong leadership.

Recently, a number of leaders serving the region’s most vulnerable populations had the opportunity to enrol in Using Coaching to Lead, an interactive leadership training program offered by Saint John-based Vision Coaching.

Through a series of intensive online sessions funded by the United Way, leaders of all ages and experience levels learned how to leverage the power of the “coach approach” to their leadership. Atlantic Canada’s largest leadership coaching firm, Vision Coaching offers an array of leadership coaching programs and services, including this program for the non-profit sector.

It resonated.

“I really enjoyed the whole process of becoming more aware of the coach approach and trying it out with co- workers, friends and family. The results of doing so have been immediate and impactful,” one leader said afterward. “A real game changer!”

Added another: “This course exceeded my expectations. I was impressed by how much of an impact it has had on my interactions thus far. One of the best training sessions I have ever done.”

Our partnerships with Vision Coaching and others allows us to offer progressive professional development opportunities to leaders in organizations that provide critical services in our communities, strengthening their impact.

United Way Annual General Meeting

Please join us June 24

Please join us for the United Way Saint John, Kings & Charlotte annual general meeting to be held online June 24 at 5 p.m. For more details and to RSVP, email

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.