United Way campaign chair says a better Edmonton starts with the U of A
When it comes to making Edmonton a better place to live, work and play, change starts here.
That’s the message University of Alberta business school professor and 2011 United Way Campaign chair Mike Percy wants to share with the university community. As one of the largest employers in the capital region, the university’s success is inextricably tied to the vibrancy and health of the greater Edmonton community, he says.
“We have a shared stake in a vibrant city where people don’t fall between the cracks,” he said. “What you want is the ability to have access to the things that allow them to achieve their full potential. And the United Way really does that.”
The university community has a number of partnerships with several United Way-funded agencies, such as Boyle Street Community Services and the Youth Emergency Shelter Society, and Percy says those relationships are very important. He notes that U of A President Indira Samarasekera’s vision for the university focuses on engagement with the community and that, given the types of organizations that the United Way supports, every dollar donated has a ripple effect through the community.
Samarasekera, in offering her support to the campaign, echoes Percy’s comments regarding the breadth of effect that donations to the United Way have on the community as a whole.
“The 2011 U of A United Way campaign gives us an opportunity to consider the great number of social challenges that we see and feel every day in our community,” she said. “As community leaders, we know colleagues, friends and students who have extensive challenges, and who may need support from United Way’s partner organizations.”
Percy says there are generally three reasons why people support the United Way. Whether because of a rational view of the personal benefit of donating, being part of an organization with strong values and beliefs in corporate social responsibility, or perhaps from personal experiences with agencies, Percy says, for him, all three apply. Following the death of his father when Percy was young, he says he and his mother lived a somewhat nomadic existence.
“I didn’t end up going to school full-time, in one spot, until about Grade 9. That transition from nomadic existence to one that was much more stable was really driven by the type of agencies supported by the United Way,” he said.
While the payoff for the work of the United Way agencies is not immediate, it is there, Percy says. What is immediate, he notes, is the impact and effect the agencies have on challenges such as retention in schools or at-risk youth. The long-term benefits of working to support at-risk youth, he says, pays off long term with the success the youth can achieve and the positive contribution they can make to society.
That time of personal pay off—seeing the positive outcomes in another’s life as a result of contributing to the United Way—a strong factor for Percy’s support of the charity, not only monetarily, but also in terms of his time. Percy encourages people to give as much as they can.
“As the slogan says, ‘change starts here,’” he said. “It’s about community building. Any contribution depends on your capacity to give.
“Every dollar helps and every dollar has an impact.”