COMMUNITY IN ACTION
This past year, United Way Greater Toronto supported:
We’ve always been our community’s social services backstop, a network of agencies nurtured over decades, yet we've never been more appreciated than in our united response to immediate and sustained need under COVID-19. Together with partners, that same network has kept its eyes on the future, elevating new models for shared prosperity to lead cross-sector solutions. Over the past year:
We worked with more than 400 community agencies, and regional and municipal governments at over 20 local coordination tables to meet urgent needs. We collapsed the distance between the front lines and decision makers to solve problems in real time and streamline equitable allocation of donations and resources, from food to digital devices. What did that look like?
In Peel, we were able to respond to emerging issues with real momentum and a collaborative approach. One example: The community-based APNA Health campaign, spearheaded by the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians and anchor agencies like Indus Community Services and Punjabi Community Health Services, provided crucial COVID-19 resources and information in multiple languages to support at-risk members in the South Asian community.
Toronto’s neighbourhood and Black Resilience tables worked together, pioneering new models in service delivery for families in need. Food access was a serious issue. Partners problem-solved to create made-in-the-neighbourhood food depots that pooled agency resources and people power to get food to historically underserved communities. Through prepared meal initiatives alone, which engaged partners like Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment Partnership and Second Harvest, 70 local groups and agencies, including Delta Family Resource Centre, delivered 225,000 meals.
In York Region, tables focused on food, seniors and homelessness. Partners dedicated to supporting those experiencing homelessness during the pandemic created a sector-first solution for women and children escaping domestic violence. They directed federal funds to open the first transitional shelter, supported by Sandgate Women’s Shelter and Yellow Brick House, so more than 70 households could self-isolate before safely transitioning into the shelter system or housing.
“Would Zoom sessions work? There was no study that we could look at, there was no best practice...We became successful because I think the staff, the community, the funders, the professions, they all worked together to sort out a particular problem. I think that’s what was so good because United Way, as the funders, allowed that flexibility to happen.”
—Baldev Mutta, CEO, Punjabi Community Health Services
The Pointer, In a year like no other, United Way asks for donations to help Peel’s most vulnerable December 29, 2020
“Thank you @uwgreaterto for all of your continued support throughout the many years our organizations have been in partnership with each other.
Your guidance, leadership, understanding and flexibility has truly helped @ceetoronto to develop into it’s true potential.”
A hand-written note was left for Lee Soda, Executive Director, Agincourt Community Services Association, on a car windshield outside Dorset Park Hub.
“Thank you to @UWGreaterTO for supporting purposeful volunteerism! #gtcares #NVW2021
UWGT funded much of our emergency response work during the pandemic, mobilizing food and essentials, and our volunteer engagement and screening efforts with @VolunteerTO and @CTWMarkham”
Flexible funding enabled our core network of almost 280 agencies to do what they do best: pivot as necessary to work in new ways and address new needs. That meant organizations such as MIAG Centre for Diverse Women and Families moved key programming, including mental health services, online, while others like Agincourt Community Services Association shifted into emergency food assistance.
By stewarding coordinated and collaborative efforts, we exponentially boosted the reach and impact of these individual initiatives.
- 200 Doors, a collaboration among eight local agencies in York Region, worked with 150 landlords to house over 340 individuals.
- CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals coordinated and supported six grassroots organizations to provide members of the African diaspora with food access, mental health counselling and support.
- The Financial Empowerment Initiative, encompassing no less than seven agencies, supported thousands of households in completing their tax returns and accessing low-income credits and emergency government benefits, which resulted in an astounding $5.7 million realized by participants through tax refunds and benefits.
- Findhelp 211, an award-winning 24-7 health, social and government services navigator available in 150 languages and first launched in the GTA back in 2002, went nationwide.
Inclusive Local Economic Opportunity
Innovation did not stop with the pandemic. In our work with corporate and community leaders, we moved from plan to action to deliver on a new promise for neighbourhood prosperity. Convened in partnership with BMO, the Inclusive Local Economic Opportunity (ILEO) initiative in the Greater Golden Mile includes the ILEO Corporate Charter, signed by the CEOs of 15 leading and committed companies. Through five pilot projects, ILEO is already resulting in new job pathways and refreshingly local solutions, like a 51% community-owned construction company — a joint partnership between Aecon and the Centre for Inclusive Economic Opportunity (CIEO). The CIEO was founded as part of ILEO by 10 local community partners, and it cements the principles of community ownership and decision-making by hiring, building and sharing profits locally.
Model for Community Safety and Well-being
After seven years of success in reducing crime and victimization, and building community resilience through FOCUS Toronto — a partnership with the City of Toronto, Toronto Police Services and community agencies — United Way supported the development of a similar Peel Situation Table, launched with 40 participating organizations in January. As consultants and steering committee members, we advised on outreach strategy, governance structure and partnership development, particularly the importance of embedding equity in the model through the inclusion of ethnocultural lead organizations that play an essential role in responding to situations and mitigating harm.
59% supported food access
40% enabled digital access, programs, resources and services
47% developed and delivered remote social, learning and community initiatives
34% supported mental health and wellness