My name is Ken Mason and I’m the manager of the North Y Youth Centre. We’re situated in the heart of a neighbourhood where households of three, four, five or more people are trying to make ends meet on an average income of $22,000. As with any lower-income neighbourhood, we have good people and strength here, but we also have challenges like crime, drugs, and gangs.
I spend most of my time in the office, but my door is always open to the kids or anyone who cares to visit. It was a day like any other, with staff coming and going and kids showing up for program. I was working at my desk when the phone rang. It was the manager of the Safeway across the street.
He said he had 60 tickets for a Blue Bombers game that he wanted to drop off for us. When he stopped by I asked the manager, why us? Why didn’t he just use them for an in store promotion or reward for his staff. He explained that since our building opened, they’d experienced a significant decline in theft, vandalism and loitering.
Not long after, a fire fighter stuck his head around the door of my office and said he just wanted to stop by to say thank you. He went on to tell me that since we’d opened the centre, they’d gone from getting daily calls about fires in garbage cans and dumpsters to almost none.
We wouldn’t get to do this work if Winnipeggers didn’t support United Way of Winnipeg’s annual campaign. Those donations help the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg offset the cost of services so kids and families can access all the programs and activities here.
Earlier this year, one of those participants, Delaney, decided to pay me a visit. She happened to see a United Way brochure on my desk and picked it up and read the title: A Better Community Starts With You. “What does that mean?” she asked.
I happened to be working on budgets at the time so I thought, okay, let’s see where this goes. I asked Delaney how much she thinks it costs to run this place. She said five dollars, as that is her annual membership fee.
I explained to her that it actually costs about $20 per kid per month to operate the centre. She didn’t seem deterred, so we broke out the calculator and I showed her the $5 annual membership fee works out to 42 cents per month, a difference of $19.58.
“Wow, $19 is a lot of money,” Delaney exclaimed. So I asked her if her membership cost $20 every month, would she still be able to come here. She became a little panicked and said there is no way she could pay that.
That’s what the brochure means, I said. That there are people all over the city who donate money to United Way that help us keep our membership rate at $5.00 so that you, and hundreds of other kids, have a safe, supportive place to go when they’re not in school.
Delaney relaxed back into her chair, crossed her arms and said “I really like those people.”
So I just want to say thanks, on behalf of Delaney, our kids, the parents and families, business owners and other service providers who call this neighbourhood home. Whether you’ve supported United Way in the past, or plan to for the first time, a better community really does start with you.
– Ken Mason
If you haven’t donated to United Way, please consider it this year. Your gift – no matter the amount, will make a difference for young women like Delaney and the hundreds of other youth that Ken works with.