Despite ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Guelph community has raised more than $500,000 in this year’s United Way campaign.  

Campaign faculty co-chair Dr. Mike von Massow announced the total raised over the three-month-long campaign during a virtual wrap-up event held Jan. 13.  

Dr. Mike von Massow, Ontario Agricultural College, Dr. Ben Bradshaw, AVP Grad Studies, and U of G president Dr. Charlotte Yates gather around a table laiden with food outside a building.
Faculty co-chair Dr. Mike von Massow; Dr. Ben Bradshaw, assistant vice-president (graduate studies); and U of G president Dr. Charlotte Yates at the United Way campaign kickoff in fall 2022

Thanking numerous volunteers, U of G administrators, partner organizations, retirees, campaign steering committee members, and individuals and units across campus, von Massow said this year’s campaign succeeded despite restricted personal interactions on campus during the pandemic.  

“It’s been an interesting year,” he said.  

Listing numerous fundraising campus initiatives that included a food truck kickoff party in Branion Plaza, sales of U of G-made ice cream, and a Halloween trivia and costume event, he said, “Every single donation matters and makes an impact on Guelph and across Wellington and Dufferin counties. The United Way is making a difference and we should be proud of what we have accomplished.”  

Campaign staff co-chair Elaine Fenner added, “Co-leading the U of G United Way campaign for the last two years has been both eye-opening as I learn about the challenges many in our community face daily and gratifying as I see the U of G community come together to raise funds for those in need.” 

United Way dollars support area social services 

For example, among people who use services provided by United Way-supported agencies across the county, every month nearly 4,000 people aged 12 to 26 visit youth wellness centres run by The Grove Wellington Guelph Hub.  

Speaking during the wrap-up event, Jeffrey Hoffman, chief development officer for the county-wide Grove organization, said funds raised during the University’s campaign help to support mental health and social services offered by five current Grove Hub locations.  

Hoffman, a 2001 U of G grad in political science, said, “We are fortunate to receive U of G’s support. The young people we’re impacting because of all you do: It really is making a difference.”  

He shared several examples, including an 18-year-old who needed help with independent living. Connected with The Grove through her high school, the young woman received what Hoffman called “wraparound services” including housing support, financial assistance and mental health counselling, as well as tutoring to get back on track at school.    

A campus location that opened in summer 2022 – the first of its kind in Canada – now collaborates with on-campus services including Student Wellness. Yumna Farooq, youth wellness coordinator and a 2020 U of G grad, said ongoing ties with the University include everything from co-op students who help staff the centre to printed guides about area social services compiled by U of G students.   

Almost 200 youths visit The Grove campus location each month. The organization plans to open its seventh location in the county in 2023.   

Successful campaign despite pandemic challenges 

Rick McCombie, chair of the board of directors for the regional United Way, said the University campaign came through even during “fatigue, uncertainty and challenges” posed by the pandemic.  

“To be able to raise more than half a million dollars is just amazing,” said McCombie. “The U of G campaign is a significant portion of the overall campaign for the Guelph Wellington Dufferin United Way. We could not do what we need to do in the community without the support of the University.” 

He added, “We are so blessed in Guelph Wellington Dufferin to have the support of a university that cares about the community. Improving lives and community-building are two important values of the United Way and they’re important values of the University as well.”  

During this month’s wrap-up event, U of G award winners were announced as follows:  

  • Campaign Co-Chairs’ Award for sustained commitment to the campaign over years: Lisa Tersigni-Holt, head of the Hospitality Services catering and conference team  
  • Spirit Award: Student Wellness Centre 
  • Gabrielle Hubert Award, whose namesake was instrumental in bringing the United Way campaign to U of G: Dr. Catherine Carstairs, history professor and former campaign co-chair and longtime donor 
  • President’s Award for the campus unit with the highest increase in participation and fundraising: Physical Resources  

The final fundraising total for the regional United Way campaign will be announced in February.