The dedication of those serving our communities’ most vulnerable residents has been nothing short of inspirational over this last year.
At a time when many chronic social issues like poverty, social isolation, and mental health continue to be exacerbated by the pandemic, our staff and volunteers have adapted to evolving circumstances and have been consistently ready to support those most in need.
New waves of community-wide infections and local crises, like the weeks-long occupation of downtown Ottawa, have further compounded issues in recent months. Labour shortages and rising operational costs are pushing exhausted staff and volunteers in the community sector to their breaking points. All the while, demand for services continues to grow across our region.
Yet, our focus has been steady. Our work to ensure vital services are accessible to anyone, from anywhere in our region, has made a significant impact thanks to new, innovative solutions, as well as our ongoing partner, donor, and government stakeholder relationships.
We continue our work with a renewed sense of purpose through strenuous times because we know how important our voice and actions are—especially when our communities’ needs are so great.
As you read the pages of this report, I hope you will connect more deeply with the impact United Way East Ontario has had across the region. It is an opportunity to look at how you—our supporters—have made a difference to our work this year.
The seemingly never-ending crisis state that we found ourselves operating in over the last couple of years has forced us to discover a nimbleness that we perhaps didn’t even realize we had. The courage, resiliency, and dedication of our volunteers and community partners, and our collective innovation, has, and will continue to, help those who need us most.
Our annual report is a look back on a year that compelled us to find ways to galvanize, as a sector, to respond to the needs of the community. It is a year where we focused on equity and improving access to services for those in rural communities; where we stood up against racism and hate in our region; where we responded to the needs of those isolated, facing violence in their homes or dealing with mental health issues; and where we provided immediate, on-the-ground support to those impacted by the pandemic and the Ottawa occupation.
We also recognized the rise in social sector service demands and capacity challenges by extending crisis support investments for our affected partners.
The challenges were extraordinary through 2021, but we came through focused on many of the same values as before the pandemic, such as inclusiveness and equitable living for all. We did what was necessary to ensure those we serve continued to be the reason we pulled together and committed ourselves.
We now have a unique opportunity to build our existing relationships, form new ones, continue to collaborate, and look for more opportunities to innovate.
As we look to the year ahead, support is still greatly needed surrounding issues like affordable housing, equitable economic recovery, support for informal caregivers and addressing learning loss for youth. To do this, we must also advocate for sector stability to ensure those in need receive the support they deserve.
I am grateful for those who continue to play an integral part in helping us overcome whatever obstacles lie in our path. Together we forge ahead, and I know we can continue to count on you through this challenging journey.
President and Chief Executive Officer
United Way East Ontario