It was through his work as director of education with the Ottawa Catholic School Board that Jamie McCracken saw where society had failed its residents.
He saw children in need, families in crisis, young people dealing with substance abuse and the plight of new immigrants.
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And through the United Way, he found he could make a difference.
The 2009 community campaign chairman helped to announce this year’s goal –$31.7 million, a two per cent increase over last year’s achievement of $31.09 million –at Lansdowne Park Wednesday.
“Helen Keller once said, ‘although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it’,” said McCracken.
“That’s why we’re here today.”
This campaign, he said, “is about rediscovering the community, and finding a way to help the people who live in the neighbourhood of despair,” he said.
“What do you want the community to be?” he asked. “That’s the question I’m going to ask over the next 10 weeks.
“The United Way Ottawa community campaign is the perfect way opportunity to be part of something bigger than all of us — and that’s why I’m here today,” said McCracken.
With the financial climate, people’s capacity might be limited this year, said United Way vice-president campaigns Joan Highet. “But we also know that their desire to help is unwavering. And now more than ever, United Way and our community need them.”
“We’re living a tale of two cities in Ottawa,” McCracken said. “There’s a city where people have few worries, enough security and are generally blessed. But there’s the other city where kids go to school hungry, where immigrants cannot find their way in this new country, where people with disabilities constantly face barriers, where seniors live in isolation.”
This year, more than 1,800 Ottawa workplaces, including 109 federal government departments, will run United Way campaigns. There will also be four Community Action Days to give people a chance to volunteer their time.