The United Way of Kitchener-Waterloo & Area launched its 2016-2017 campaign on Sept. 23 at the Waterloo Central Railway train station in St. Jacobs with teams competing to see who could pull a 40-tonne train the fastest, after announcing their campaign goal of $5.1 million.
The organization is also celebrating its 75th anniversary.
“We are crowning a train pull champion today. United Way is fortunate to have two great champions who are with us today and ready when called upon,” said communications specialist Brian Bourke before introducing Michael Schmitt and Deb Zettel-Schmitt.
Zettel-Schmitt said they’ve both experienced or seen firsthand the kind of support the United Way provides for families and kids.
“Yesterday I had the privilege of listening to Waterloo’s fire chief Randy Hepditch and he coined a phrase ‘community of communities.’ The real reason communities are important I think you know is because it strengthens the region in which we live,” Schmitt said.
He noted the programs supported by United Way help give people in the region a sense of belonging.
“When you look at these big machines it’s no surprise it’ll take a great deal of effort to get them to move. It also takes a leader, someone’s who’s willing to take the front end of the rope if you will and guide their team. We are fortunate to have that kind of person on our very own roster,” Bourke said in welcoming CEO Jan Varner, who announced the $5.1 million campaign goal.
She said this is the amount they need to keep the status quo, to keep doing the work they and their partners and supported agencies do. But, she noted she doesn’t see this as a status quo community.
“I think and I believe we are a lot more than status quo. We’re innovative, we’re entrepreneurial, barn-raising and caring. Those are the words I use when I talk about our community. Status quo isn’t innovative. Status quo isn’t barn-raising. When you raise a barn, you build a new one. You don’t build with the old lumber and the old footprint exactly,” Varner said.
To meet this goal and beyond, it will take the whole community pulling together, as they did to pull the train, she said.
Putting it into hockey terms, she said raising the $5.1 million will be a goal scored, but not the game they need to win.
“The game we need to win is creating possibility for everyone in all of our communities and donations are a means to that end,” Varner said.
Five teams pulled Thomas, the 40-tonne diesel switcher and then attempted to pull the Number 9, which is one of only three such trains in North America. It runs monthly.
“When I say ‘we’ I don’t mean United Way. I mean we as a community, however you define that, whether it’s Woolwich or whether it’s St. Jacobs. We have an opportunity and I believe we have an obligation to move beyond the status quo, to use that innovate barn-raising spirit to take the lead to make real change and to create real possibility for men and women and children who are facing challenges and struggles in their life,” Varner said.