The secret to happiness.

Turning five is a special event in anyone’s life, and for her fifth birthday Braelyn had a special idea.

“She decided she wanted to do something,” said Braelyn’s aunt, Shania Pruden.

“We were talking and she doesn’t like it how some kids can’t afford new clothes for school.”

Braelyn, with her aunt Shania, made her birthday about compassion and caring for kids.

Braelyn, with her aunt Shania, made her birthday about compassion and caring for kids.

For her birthday Braelyn asked friends and family to donate items for children, and on Tuesday she showed up at United Way Winnipeg with five bags of clothes and several backpacks.

The clothes – boys and girls items for winter and summer – will go to children at a neighbourhood family centre in Winnipeg.

When asked how she felt knowing that her caring generosity will help kids and families, Braelyn thought for just a second before answering.

Happy,” she said.


A collection drive is a wonderful way to give back to our community. They can be hosted by individuals, like Braelyn, or groups of people at schools and workplaces. Clothes, school supplies, baby items, non-perishable food, household items and more are all much-needed items in our community.

To learn more about hosting a collection drive contact Melissa Burgess, United Way’s Community Involvement Manager, at (204) 924 4273 or email her at mburgess@unitedwaywinnipeg.mb.ca

Sobeys generous with mitts for Koats for Kids!

Sobeys was inspired by Carbone Coal Fired Pizza to put mitts on kids!

It’s a wonderful thing when generosity inspires generosity.

When Sobeys Kildonan manager Scott Innes was looking for a way to give back, he looked on United Way Winnipeg’s website.

There he found the story about Carbone Coal Fired Pizza raising money to purchase hockey mitts for United Way’s Koats for Kids program.

Carbone Coal Fired Pizza managing partner Benjamin Nasberg, Donna Albak, program manager for Koats for Kids, Michael Nugent, and chef and managing partner Joe Paletta with their Koats donation last February.

Carbone Coal Fired Pizza managing partner Benjamin Nasberg, Donna Albak, program manager for Koats for Kids, Michael Nugent, and chef and managing partner Joe Paletta with Carbone’s Koats donation last February.

Scott says the idea of helping provide children with winter gear through Koats for Kids inspired him.

“I have two young kids, and I can’t imagine them going without mitts or having to go to school without a jacket.”

Scott sourced hockey mitts from Richlu Manufacturing – the same company that supplied Carbone – where they gave him a good price to help the cause.

Then last month the store ran a 3-day campaign for staff and customers. For a $5 donation people could write their names on coloured paper mittens cut out by Jennifer Downey, the Engagement Champion at Sobeys Kildonan. The paper mittens were then strung onto yarn to adorn a Christmas tree displaying the generous donors.

The Christmas tree with little paper mitts displayed names of generous donors.

The Christmas tree with little paper mitts displayed names of generous donors.

In total they raised enough to purchase 254 pairs of hockey mitts.

“They’re so generous in this area, anytime we do something” Scott said of his customers.

“I think that’s fabulous.”

Sobeys Engagement Champion Jennifer Downey (from left), Assistant Manager Rex Quilapio, United Way Community Involvement Associate Mariah Baldwin, and Manager Scott Innes with 254 pairs of hockey mitts destined to keep kids hands warm.

Sobeys Engagement Champion Jennifer Downey (from left), Assistant Manager Rex Quilapio, United Way Community Involvement Associate Mariah Baldwin, and Manager Scott Innes with 254 pairs of hockey mitts destined to keep kids hands warm.

Every year Koats for Kids collects, cleans, and distributes over 6,000 coats and 22,000 additional pieces of winter outerwear, and it wouldn’t be possible without donations from the community.

Scott is already hatching plans for a future Koats fundraiser – one with some added excitement.

“Next year we’re going to have a little friendly competition with (Carbone Coal Fired Pizza)…I haven’t talked to them about it yet though.”

Give the boot to cold toes on little tykes!

January 13, 2016, 7 to 9:30 a.m. — drop off new or gently used winter boots for Winnipeg tykes!

Free coffee from Grace Cafe, Jonnies Sticky buns and warm fuzzies! Download a poster now to put up in your office & spread the word!

GenNext Boot Drive January 13, 2016.

United Way’s GenNext is hosting a Drive-Thru Boot Drive, and needs your help to keep children safe & warm this winter. Help us provide children with the critical cold-weather footwear required for safe outdoor play and travel in the winter.

Rally your colleagues, teammates, friends or family to organize a collection drive at your workplace, family gathering, or sporting event. You can then personally drop them off at our improvised “drive through,” (in our back parking lot) and be pampered with some delish Jonnies Sticky buns and a warm cup of coffee.

Enter the United Way parking lot at the Main St. and Alexander Ave. entrance:

Volunteers will gather the boots and off you go in comfort! Gift cards or cash donations are welcomed.

“Why boots?” you may ask…

Families living in poverty are often unable to purchase winter boots for their children. And kids grow fast!

This means sometimes children are unable to participate in outdoor recreation activities in the winter months, or safely walk to school.

“We feel this is a need for kids in our community and a way for GenNext to make a difference. We want kids to be able to walk to school through snow on the coldest day of the year knowing they have the footwear to get them there,” said Jane Helbrecht, Vice-Chair of United Way’s GenNext Council.

“Winter boot donations also give kids the equipment and confidence to get outside and play with their friends and enjoy winter activities.  We hope Winnipeggers will come together on January 13 to help kids be all they can be this winter! It’s something so simple, yet so meaningful.”

The boots collected will be distributed to Koats for Kids and through our neighbourhood resource centres in Winnipeg.

Please email Dan if you have any questions!

Warm PJs, warm hearts.

Fuzzy suits headed for children after generosity finds PJ Drive.

The annual PJ Drive by the Manitoba Chiropractors Association (MCA) was a huge success, with over 2,700 sets of jammies collected by 32 participating chiropractic clinics.

“It’s such a nice thing. To think of all those children having a new set of jammies to snuggle into is really heartwarming,” said Hillary Gair, community involvement manager at United Way Winnipeg.

Mariah Baldwin (left), United Way community involvement associate, and Hillary Gair, community involvement manager, with a fraction of the 2,700+ sets of PJs collected by Manitoba Chiropractors Association members this year.

Mariah Baldwin (left), United Way community involvement associate, and Hillary Gair, community involvement manager, with a fraction of the 2,700+ sets of PJs collected by Manitoba Chiropractors Association members this year.

Gair said jammies have already been distributed to 25 United Way agency partners, with more going out this week.

“The PJ’s are so wonderfully cozy and will brighten the eyes of the children and warm the hearts of their parents,” said Diane O’Neil, executive director of the Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute after getting their shipment of warm, fuzzy suits.

MCA’s Chelsea Perrault, who helps organize the drive, is thrilled with the outcome – almost double their goal of 1,500 sets.

“I can’t even put it into words. I was just overwhelmed with the number of pajamas our members collected this year…it left me speechless when Hillary sent me that email and said the grand total was over 2700 pairs.”

The annual PJ Drive was started by Suzanne Stitt of Natural Wellness Chiropractic Centre six years ago before MCA joined in three years ago.

The drive is over now for another year, but Gair said there are still lots of opportunities for groups looking to help out in the community.

“There are many ways for people to give back through United Way, including a collection drive or Day of Caring.”

For more information on group volunteer opportunities contact Hillary Gair at
204-924-4273 or hgair@unitedwaywinnipeg.mb.ca

MPI gives Teen Stop Jeunesse some wheely big help!

The St. Vital drop-in centre is getting a little more mobile, thanks to the good folks at MPI!

The generous donation of a van by Manitoba Public Insurance will make life easier for staff and kids at Teen Stop Jeunesse.

“Usually we have to send two staff with their own vehicles for five to six kids,” said Teen Stop executive director Pat LeBlanc.

Teen Stop executive director Pat LeBlanc, left, gets the keys for a van last Friday from MPI’s Mark Grant, manager, MPI’s Physical Damage Research & Training

Teen Stop executive director Pat LeBlanc, left, gets the keys for a van last Friday from MPI’s Mark Grant, manager, MPI’s Physical Damage Research & Training.

The van ─ a 2015 Dodge Caravan SXT ─ means the United Way-supported St. Vital youth drop-in centre can take that same number of kids with a single vehicle, freeing up a staff member to do other activities with youth.

LeBlanc describes Teen Stop as a “social service centre offering education, recreation, and assistance to those in need,” adding that it serves not only children and youth, but also offers educational programs for adults and parents.

“For some of the kids who didn’t succeed in regular school and were drop-in attendees, they’re coming back here because this is the place they feel comfortable at and they’re succeeding at levels that they didn’t expect.”

LeBlanc is especially proud of two brothers who didn’t graduate from the public school system – who hardly ever attended school. After time they began attending the Teen Stop education programming, and have boasted almost perfect attendance.

“One of them graduated last year from our program, and the other will graduate at the end of January. They both have aspirations of going on to university.”

Teen Stop also offers music programming, arts & crafts, life-skills, computer lab and help with homework.

Thank you, MPI, for your generosity and for caring about our community!

Great-West Life’s volunteer marathon!

About 80 Great-West Life employees show they care as part of the company’s national Day of Caring Project Drive.

Over the past two weeks purple-shirted employees from Great-West Life in Winnipeg gave their time and energy to make Winnipeg better through 10 back-to-back United Way Days of Caring.

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A United Way Day of Caring is a chance for volunteers; usually groups organized through a workplace, to help change lives in Winnipeg by helping community organizations complete short-term projects that need a little extra people power.

Caring, and smiling, at North End Women's Centre Betty Berg House.

Caring, and smiling, at North End Women’s Centre Betty Berg House.

The Days of Caring were part of a national drive by Great-West – a founding partner of United Way of Winnipeg – that saw almost 400 employees helping out with 40 projects in Winnipeg and Montreal, London, Toronto and Regina.

Jan Belanger, Vice-President of Community Relations for Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life, says staff appreciate high-impact volunteer opportunities in their communities.

“Along with building relationships with United Way agencies and the people who benefit from their services, they’re also getting to know their colleagues better, outside of everyday workplace contact.”

The companies organized Days of Caring across Canada to lead off their 2015 United Way workplace fundraising campaigns, Belanger added.

It’s the 3rd year they have done the national blitz of caring, which includes a $500 donation to each agency.

In Winnipeg employees helped out at seven organizations, including several United Way agency partners.

Two separate groups of volunteers spent two days at the Betty Berg House – a house operated by the North End Women’s Centre to help women who have been experiencing homelessness transition their lives to independent living.

Prepping for painting at the Betty Berg House.

Prepping for painting at the Betty Berg House.

The Great-West crews prepared and painted six bedrooms used by women at the house, which had not seen fresh paint in about 10 years.

Making bedrooms bright again.

Making bedrooms bright again.

“It’s amazing, it helps us so much. This house really needed an uplift, and there’s no way I would have had the time to paint the bedrooms,” said house mentor Jenny Foster.

Another Day of Caring winterized a community garden in the West End that has space for growing and playing.

Cleaning up The Kids' Garden

Cleaning up The Kids’ Garden

The Kids’ Garden is maintained by Spence Neighbourhood Association and sits next to the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre, where SNA runs programming for children and youth.

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Children from SNA’s Building Belonging program – an after school program that provides nutritious food, activities, and help with homework to kids aged 6 to 12 – use the garden space to play in and for growing food that they harvest and eat.

Great-West employees also helped at United Way’s Koats for Kids, Fort Garry Women’s Resource Centre, Pregnancy and Family Support Services, The WestEnd Commons, and Art City. They also acted in volunteer roles for two Living on the Edge poverty simulations, which help participants gain an understanding of the challenges faced by people living in poverty.

Assembling a closet system for the Fort Garry Women's Resource Centre.

Assembling a closet system for the Fort Garry Women’s Resource Centre.

Getting Art City ready for a dinosaur party requires prehistoric scenery.

Getting Art City ready for a dinosaur party requires prehistoric scenery.

Keep scrolling to see photos of the Days of Caring teams!

Bringing the warmth at Koats for Kids.

Bringing the warmth at Koats for Kids.

The Koats for Kids crew helped sort and create bundles of mitts, hats, scarves and coats to keep Winnipeg children warm this winter.

The Koats for Kids crew helped sort and create bundles of mitts, hats, scarves and coats to keep Winnipeg children warm this winter.

On the job cleaning up WestEnd Commons resource centre and common areas.

On the job cleaning up WestEnd Commons resource centre and common areas.

Helpers at the Fort Garry Women's Resource Centre, where they installed a closet system and organized items.

Helpers at the Fort Garry Women’s Resource Centre, where they installed a closet system and organized items.

The painting preppers.

The painting preppers.

The painters.

The painters.

Living on The Edge poverty simulation, first day.

Living on The Edge poverty simulation, first day.

Living on The Edge poverty simulation, second day.

Living on The Edge poverty simulation, second day.

Great-West helpers painted two offices and a kitchen at Pregnancy & Family Support Services.

Great-West helpers painted two offices and a kitchen at Pregnancy & Family Support Services.

Toby Gillies, studio coordinator at Art City, receives a $500 cheque from Great-West volunteers (who also helped build a dinosaur habitat) to help fund their kids' art programs.

Toby Gillies, studio coordinator at Art City, receives a $500 cheque from Great-West volunteers (who also helped build a dinosaur habitat) to help fund kids’ art programs.

Thank you to all the wonderful Great-West Life employees for making Winnipeg better!

Andrea from North End Women's Centre made bannock for both shifts of volunteers at the Betty Berg House!

Andrea from North End Women’s Centre made bannock for both shifts of volunteers at the Betty Berg House!