With the passing of Thanksgiving, Canadians are unofficially entering the holiday season. Even with the economic downturn that struck last year, an Ipsos Reid poll found that eight in 10 Canadians maintained or increased charitable giving last Christmas.

 

Even with this much-needed and appreciated generosity, the fact remains that poverty and its aggravating or consequent social problems remain a reality in Canada all year long.

According to the Canadian Council on Social Development, 3.4 million Canadians (11.2 per cent of the population) were living in poverty in 2004. Poverty rates were highest among children and youth under the age of 18.

While in a time of economic crisis, it is critical to continue to support those agencies and centres assisting those most in need.

 

Leading academics, policy-makers, and front-line workers recognize the need for both fulfilling immediate needs of those in poverty and creating long-term solutions to alleviate poverty. It is the combination of both approaches that will lead to stronger, healthier communities and, therefore, a greater quality of life for all Canadians.

In advance of the holiday season there is the annual United Way-Centraide campaign (UW-C), run by the 118 United Ways-Centraides (UWs-Cs) across Canada.

 

Next to governments, United Way-Centraide is the largest funder of social services in the country. Collectively, ­UWs-Cs raised upwards of $480 million last year to be reinvested in their communities.

The high-profile UW-C campaigns fulfil needs that otherwise would not be met. However, for the past few years, UWs-Cs have also been tackling the more challenging problem of reducing poverty.

That’s why UW-C now focuses energy and resources to creating “community impact.”

Community impact is about achieving meaningful, long-term improvements to quality of life in Canadian communities. It’s about making fundamental changes to community conditions.

UW-C understands how connected and interdependent we all are.

Everyone wins when a child is nourished, when families are financially independent, and when all people have opportunities to live a good life. With each life that improves, everyone is strengthened — communities are stronger.