Better lives built on everyday kindness

A series of simple kindnesses has had life-changing consequences for Dilly and her son Dion, beginning 27 years ago when a United Way-supported community development worker suggested Dilly—a waitress between jobs—begin volunteering at Dion’s nursery school and get more involved in the community.

It was the same kind kindred spirit who ultimately inspired the former high school dropout to go back to school and pursue a degree in social work.

“She just kept encouraging me and showed me I had skills and abilities I didn’t believe I had,” says Dilly.

Dilly and her son, Dion. Kindness from a stranger saved Dion from a life of crime and addiction.

Dilly and her son, Dion. Kindness from a stranger saved Dion from a life of crime and addiction.

For more than 20 years now, Dilly has served as Executive Director at the Andrews Street Family Centre, a United Way agency partner she helped found to assist people in her North End neighbourhood struggling with a multitude of issues like poverty, violence and addictions.

But while Dilly’s confidence was growing, prejudice and intolerance for his North End roots had robbed Dion of his own self-esteem.

By age 17 he had turned full time to the streets where he was running with gangs, dealing drugs, stealing cars, and battling his own addictions.

One night, after a run-in with drug dealers left him hopeless and suicidal, Dion wandered the streets until 5 a.m. when he found himself on the steps of Rossbrook House, a United Way agency partner that provides vulnerable kids with a safe and nurturing space. There he encountered an older man walking his dog who stopped, concerned. “He sat there for about an hour and just listened to my whole story,” says Dion.

Then the stranger did something amazing. “He said, ‘My name is Bud and I want you to move into my home with me and my wife Molly tonight and we want to help you clean yourself up.’”

“I struggled for three weeks with sickness and withdrawal and they stood by me the whole time. I’m proud to be 25 years clean now because of what they did for me.”

Now 41, Dion is returning the kindness in his role as co-ordinator at the Pritchard Place children’s drop-in centre at Andrews Street. “Now I have the opportunity to show kids they also have opportunities, and chances, and goals,” says Dion.

Dilly is equally grateful for small kindnesses. “I don’t believe for a minute I’d have ever gone back to school. I really believe I’d have continued in minimum wage jobs. To be a social worker, get a degree, and become Executive Director at Andrews Street—it’s just amazing.”

“Kindness and compassion expressed through United Way make a huge difference. We’re proof. “

You can help Andrews Street get a safe, new fence for their daycare’s outdoor play space by giving what you can to our Make It Happen crowdfunding project—a Winnipeg Wednesday in celebration of 50 years in our community.