Building healthy, strong communities through the United Way

December 5, 2014

Anthony Norrad knows the difference a contribution to the United Way makes

MacEwan University is in the midst of its yearly fundraising campaign for the United Way, which provides much-needed funding to over 60 non-profit organizations in the Alberta Capital Region. Every year, students, staff and faculty members donate time and money to make a difference in the lives of those affected by poverty. As a member and previous chair of the university's United Way Committee, Anthony Norrad, associate registrar knows just how much of an impact a contribution to the United Way can make. 

What keeps you going (volunteering/fundraising/donating)?

It’s the right thing to do. I believe in the United Way model—engaging individuals to build a healthier, stronger community. While the Alberta Capital Region and this province have enjoyed a strong economic climate over the past number of years, not everyone has benefited from this prosperity.

Poverty is real. It is unacceptable that 120,000 people, including 37,000 children, live in poverty in our community—many of whom live with mental illness, addictions, domestic violence, homelessness or simply struggle every day to make ends meet for their families.

My parents' marriage broke up when I was 13 years old, and life changed—a single-parent home became my new reality. My father was unable to work after a workplace accident and he ended up on a fixed disability income. Financially, life became more challenging. So, I understand the impact life's circumstances or an unanticipated event can have. While we struggled financially, I am grateful for the many blessings and opportunities that were afforded to me. For this reason, and for the examples modelled for me by a few special individuals in my life, I was inspired to serve others and give back to my community.

What's the most inspirational thing that has happened to you while/as a result of volunteering or donating?

There have been many wonderful experiences over the years, but for me, it is people. Serving dinner to a homeless man who offers you a smile and expresses his appreciation for the warm meal. Knowing that a child from a low-income family is given the opportunity to go to summer camp. We all have a story. I sincerely believe that we need to care for each other and reach out to support our neighbours in their times of need, ensuring their dignity while providing hope.

What advice would you share with someone else who wants to get involved?

Find your passion, seek out opportunities that speak to your heart and give. There is no better feeling than the one that comes with knowing that you made a difference. If you can support this year’s United Way campaign, I encourage you to do so. Consider a payroll deduction—$15 per paycheque provides a nutritious lunch for 100 students in an inner-city school, or $50 per paycheque can support seven low-income families with baby supplies for three months.

There is no question that poverty is a complex issue. I believe that the impact of my community donation is maximized through the United Way—I saw it first-hand when I worked as a campaign assistant during the 1995 Central Alberta United Way campaign—and I feel good knowing that my donation dollars are creating hope and opportunities in the lives of my neighbours in need facing challenging social conditions.

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