City hall gets an award for its United Way efforts – the rest of the city has to try harder next year to reach its target.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 9, 2013  Burlington, Ont. March 8, 2013— Employees of the City of Burlington were named the 2012 ArcelorMittal Dofasco Community Builder Award at the United Way Spirit of Community Awards ceremony on Thursday, Feb. 7.

Len Lifchus, CEO of the United Way of Burlington and Greater Hamilton, will present the award to employees at City Council during the Monday, March 18 Council meeting.

From left to right: Len Lifchus (CEO, United Way of Burlington and Greater Hamilton), Dana Robbins, (Chair of the board of directors, United Way of Burlington and Greater Hamilton),  Kim Phillips (General Manager, Community and Corporate Services, City of Burlington),  Wendy Hough (City of Burlington), Mr. Bronko Jazvac (vice-president, World Class Manufacturing and Health and Safety, ArcelorMittal Dofasco) , Wanda Tolone (City of Burlington),  Paddy Torsney (Chair, Burlington United Way Campaign)  and  Dr. Nick Bontis, the Hamilton United Way Campaign Chair.

Wendy Hough, committee chair, Wanda Tolone, committee member and Kim Phillips, general manager community and corporate services, accepted the award at the original ceremony.  The city employees’ 2012 campaign raised $62,425 from payroll deduction contributions and special-event fundraising efforts.

The city of Burlington does a really good job of kicking off the United Way campaign and this year there were some interesting events.  What the Burlington part of the 2012 United Campaign wasn’t able to do was meet its target – it fell short by more than $90,000.  The Burlington campaign target was $2.1 million – the total raised amounted to $2,008,355

City general manager for Budget and Corporate Services Kim Phillips gives it more than the old college try for the United Way. Last year the city staff contribution was $62,425 for a total in the last 22 years of $985,000

For a city as prosperous as Burlington, a campaign target of $2.1 million should have been a snap.  Tim Dobbie, a former city manager and now president of the Burlington Community Foundation  suggests “there are more in the way of competing demands for funds in Burlington” and thus the short fall, and that may be true but for something as core as the United Way falling that far short is just not acceptable.  The economy is much better this year than it was in 2010 when the target was reached.

We don’t make any friends with statements like that but sailing along as if that kind of shortfall is acceptable is selling the people who depend on United Way services short. A couple of thousand short – maybe – 90 thousand short – someone should be asking questions.

It looks as if the city hall staff did its share.  There hasn’t been any analysis of the numbers for this latest campaign released.

Kim Phillips, general manager of community and corporate services for the city revealed that the City of Burlington employees have contributed $985,000 over the past 22 years. They have every reason to be proud of the part they have played.

The award recognizes organizations that impact, inspire and lead the people of our community.  It is presented to a company or organization that demonstrates outstanding enthusiasm and support to the United Way as well as making a significant difference in the community.

Len Lifchus, CEO of the United Way will be smiling when he hands out the award to the city and then wondering how he is going to make up the shortfall in the campaign he has just completed.  The hard truth is that some people who need the help are just going to have to go without.

The United Way is a vital service and is a recognized part of every “connected and compassionate community” as Mayor Goldring likes to describe us.  While the Mayor maintains we “care deeply about one another”, next year we are going to have to dig quite a bit deeper.

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