It is usually a personal experience that moves and motivates us: out of these stories come the really superb leaders.

By Pepper Parr

January 29, 2014


Brian Ferguson brings a very personal point of view to what the United Way means to the community.  For many it is a charity that helps people less fortunate that we may happen to be.

We have extra money and we give it to the United Way or other organizations – because we want to help.  (Why do we call this charity – it’s a social responsibility.) Ferguson makes the point that the United Way isn’t an organization that helps the less fortunate – it helps people who need help.

Greg Jones, communications advisor with Newalta and Burlington United Way Chair Brian Ferguson go over a few points at a Campaign Cabinet meeting

Ferguson’s mother was dealing with cancer; a terrible disease that strikes many homes and families.  He was 15 years of age when his Mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.   Just after his 16th birthday his  Mother’s cancer was so bad that she became bed ridden at home, that is when Brian’s family was referred to the Red Cross who would drop off medical supplies and equipment to the house weekly.

Ferguson didn’t know at the time that this portion of the Red Cross was supported by the United Way. “It wasn’t until I started running the United Way Campaign at VMware as the Employee Campaign Chair that I started to learn who the United Way supports, this is when I found out the Red Cross program  we relied on was supported by the United Way.”

Tara Brewer on the right keeps in touch with her co-workers during a meeting while Jason Lemaich gets a bit of work done during a break in a Campaign Cabinet meeting.

This wasn’t the last time Ferguson was aided by the United Way.  Years later Brian and his wife turned to ROCK for counselling for his family.  To help them learn how to co-exist as a blended family while also learning how to deal with his wife having MS and the strain it puts on everyone.  ROCK – Reach Out Centre for Kids – is a UW funded agency. 

Brian Ferguson isn’t a poor man.  He is gainfully employed by one of the sharpest Canadian companies in the high tech field.  He travels frequently to California seeking out the best talent there is as a recruiter for VMWare.  Are we going to call Brian Ferguson a charity case?  He was a man with a problem he couldn’t manage on his own and sought the help he needed.

“From a young age”, Brian will tell you, “my mother taught me the importance of giving back and being an active member in my community.  I see my role in the United Way as a way to live my Mother’s legacy while also teaching my children (almost 3-year-old girl and 15-year-old son) the importance of giving back. The motto I live by running the United Way is  – our community is not truly great until it is great for EVERYONE.

The theme my United Way Cabinet runs under is:  TWW (Together We Win).

United Way president Len Lifchus appears to be trying to convince Lesley Allison (UW Campaign Director)
 that an idea will work: she doesn’t appear to be buying that one.

The United Way that Ferguson raises funds for is there in the blink of an eye when you need it the most. The focus this past campaign had three beams of light: From poverty to possibility; Healthy People build strong communities and All that kids can be.

One in three people will use a United Way funded service/program in their lifetime…mostly of the time not even knowing it. “This was me”, adds Brian Ferguson. 

Now you know why he was asked to serve for a second year as chair of the 2014 Burlington campaign.


Fund raising in bits and pieces around the community.

Creating the team that brought in more than $2.1 million for 2013.

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2 comments to It is usually a personal experience that moves and motivates us: out of these stories come the really superb leaders.

  • Jim Frizzle

    Pepper, this is a superb article that should touch everyone who reads it. Brian Ferguson is such an open and honest person. We could not have selected a better person to run our United Way campaigns in Burlington for 2013 and 2014!

  • Mr.Bean

    I have been donating to the United Way for years through a weekly deduction on my paycheque. Recently, I too used the services provided through ROCK for my son and our family. The United Way really does touch most of us whether we know it or not.