It’s easier than ever for local residents to engage with United Way of the Lower Mainland in their own neighbourhoods. A United Way volunteer connects with residents on Family Day 2019, when little libraries were installed in Clayton Heights, Surrey. Photo: Jennifer Sutherland, JLS Photography.

United Way charts innovative course for community

Building connections to tackle challenges of social isolation

As United Way of the Lower Mainland reflects on its 90th anniversary in 2020, it’s easy to look back at the accomplishments achieved over the last nine decades. Perhaps more exciting, though, is the innovative ideas taking the organization forward.

Like the community it serves, the United Way has changed a lot since its founding in 1930, and key to its longevity and continued relevance is its ability to evolve. While continuing to invest in local programs and services with demonstrable, sustainable impact, today United Way is also involved in local communities like never before, sharing the impact of local love.

Tackling the reality of social isolation

Why the shift? Whether due to changing family dynamics, the isolating effects of technology or myriad other factors, social isolation is increasing.

Research conducted by United Way found that nearly half of BC residents say they sometimes feel lonely – a statistic that may come as little surprise with the recent Blue Monday, Jan. 20, dubbed the loneliest day of the year.

Retirees may miss the camaraderie of the workplace while widowers may have lost the social engagements their spouse encouraged. Adults with long commutes may have little time left to build neighbourhood connections. Young people in a new neighbourhood may miss family and friend supports.

“Social isolation has many different faces and often it’s hidden; that’s why United Way is tackling loneliness head-on,” says Kim Winchell, Director, Social Impact, Community Impact & Investment for United Way of the Lower Mainland.

The implications of that loneliness are far-reaching, whether decreasing people’s resilience to life’s challenges or increasing mental or physical health concerns.

The good news is that the United Way’s research offers hope, too: 21 per cent said volunteering is more meaningful with other people you know.

“Programs alone, and citizens alone, cannot solve social isolation. But put together, we can create sustainable, healthy communities.”

United Way: At work in your community

That’s something that resonates with Penny Bradley, Executive Director, Alexandra Neighbourhood House, building community in the Surrey and White Rock communities since 1916.

When families from Clayton’s Katzi Elementary were in dire need of after-school care, United Way proposed a collaborative approach. They provided funds to Alexandra House for a new United Way School’s Out program, but also helped co-create the program in partnership with the agency and local residents.

United Way has worked with Bradley’s team to explore local needs and ideas. Today, one youth worker connects with younger students and another with older ones, who are mentored to give back by working with their younger counterparts. Through that rewarding experience, it’s hoped they might later return as volunteers, Bradley explains.

“It’s been really exciting for us to do things differently. It’s building those connections and volunteerism from the ground up.”

From that foundation, more is coming.

“If you have engaged neighbours and people talking to each other, it builds a stronger community.”

Other United Way initiatives include its grassroots Hi Neighbour program, working with local residents to build neighbourhood programs that build connections, whether it’s “little libraries,” seniors’ walking groups or block parties.

To learn more visit uwlm.ca/hineighbour

.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Now it’s in 90th year, United Way continues to partner with donors, citizens, workplaces and unions, but its Hi Neighbour initiative brings these groups in much closer collaboration, in their own neighbourhoods. In 2019 workers from CUPE 402, local schools and people at the Surrey Pretrial Centre fabricated little libraries and worked with residents to install them in Clayton Heights, Surrey. Photo by JLS Photography

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Ridge Meadows RCMP announce detachment’s biggest drug, weapons and cash bust

Five month investigation resulted in large fentanyl seizure

Pitt Meadows woman gives birth on in-laws’ driveway

Frédérique Gagnon new son is appropriately named after Norse trickster god

Residents treated for smoke inhalation after fire in Maple Ridge building

Fire took place in the 11800 block of Laity Street

Teachers to get 2 extra days to prepare for students’ return, now set for Sept. 10

Students will first start with orientation and learn rules of COVID-19 classroom policies

B.C. to hire 500 more COVID-19 contact tracers ahead of fall

Contract tracers add an ‘extra layer’ in the fight against the novel coronavirus

Feds commit $305M in additional funds for Indigenous communities during COVID-19

Money can be used to battle food insecurity and support children and mental health

Hobo Cannabis renamed Dutch Love after backlash

Hobo Cannabis has various locations in Vancouver, Kelowna and Ottawa

Man accused of killing Red Deer doctor says he does not remember attack

Appearing before a judge, Deng Mabiour, 54, rambled about being sick and needing a doctor

Driver maces pedestrian after hit and run in Langley City

Police were on the scene at Michaud Crescent Wednesday morning

Teen killer Kelly Ellard gets day parole extension, allowing up to 5 days at home

Ellard is serving a life sentence for the 1997 murder of 14-year-old Reena Virk

Andrew Scheer likely marking last day in House of Commons as Opposition leader

Today’s Commons sitting is one of two scheduled for August

Deaths feared after train derails amid storms in Scotland

Stonehaven is on the line for passenger trains linking Aberdeen with the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow

Most Read