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October 11, 2001 Charitable giving brings tremendous benefits to all



Concordians launch the Centraide campaign with the March of Umbrellas

Under the leadership of this year’s campaign co-chairs, Danielle Morin and Patricia Posius, a group of Concordians set out with their garnet umbrellas to join thousands of other corporate and institutional volunteers for the launch of the 2001 Centraide campaign. Fittingly for an umbrella organization that raises money for 350 charities, the event is called the March of 1,000 Umbrellas. And, being autumn, it often rains.

Photo by Christian Fleury

by Sigalit Hoffman

No one is ever far from poverty’s reach. That’s the message of Maria Trudel-Day, executive director of the Chez Doris women’s shelter: “All of us — we’re on the edge.”

Anyone can fall prey to a deadly domino effect that leads to the street, and the path, she said, is surprisingly simple: depression, job loss, employment insurance benefits run out, and then there is nothing left.

Trudel-Day helps many women overcome circumstances that have left them poor. “As many terrible things that have happened in their lives, they have a tremendous amount of courage.”

She can do the front-line work she does thanks in part to support from Centraide. The umbrella charity organization gives Chez Doris almost $94,000 a year, which covers 23 per cent of the shelter’s budget. Trudel-Day said Centraide is an agency the shelter has come to trust and rely on. “We know that we can count on this funding from year to year,” she said.

Centraide helps the shelter provide a wide range of services for the women who drop in, including free food and clothing to those who need it. Chez Doris also offers computer literacy classes, and runs a cheque-administration program to help women balance meagre budgets.

It is not uncommon for shelter employees to take the women grocery shopping to help them choose healthy food, Trudel-Day said. There is even a masseur who gives four massages a week as part of the shelter’s holistic approach to well-being. “Many of them never get human touch, it’s only in a negative way.” Trudel-Day said.

According to Trudel-Day, 60 to 80 women pass through the shelter in a day, and sometimes that number is even higher. The numbers have increased substantially from between 20 to 25 women five years ago, and the demographics have changed. In earlier years, the shelter saw mostly white anglophone women. Now, more francophones and visible minorities are finding their way to Chez Doris.

The problems are changing, too. Chez Doris now sees more women who are mentally ill or who have gambling addictions. But the shelter is not lacking in success stories.

Trudel-Day said that for some, just coming to the shelter despite severe depression is an achievement. “To come here every day is a big step in their lives,” she said. Some of the women go on to get jobs, and even go back to school.

Chez Doris is just one of 324 agencies that receive financial support from Centraide. Radio centre-ville Saint-Louis is also among the agency’s recipients. While a community radio station may seem an unlikely candidate for charitable donations, 102.3 FM is an integral part of community life.

“It’s a community-oriented multilingual radio station,” said the station’s executive director, Nathalie Goulet. Its mission is to “give the airwaves over to those who don’t have access to other media.”

The station, now in its 26th year, broadcasts in seven different languages, including English, French, Portuguese, Greek, Creole and Chinese, both Mandarin and Cantonese. The station has 400 volunteers from various communities and broadcasts almost 30 shows a day.

Though the listenership is relatively small, around 125,000 a week, it’s very loyal. This might be thanks to the unique services the station provides. By offering community information in their language, the volunteer hosts help new immigrants find housing, learn French, and adapt to Montreal. “We help them integrate into the community,” she said. “We [encourage] them to participate fully in our society.”

Agencies like Radio centre-ville Saint-Louis and Chez Doris have built up a trust with Centraide. While the government is moving towards funding projects rather than providing base funding to charity groups, Centraide remains committed to the charities’ daily product.

It is Montrealers who reap the rewards of this commitment. Many people, Maria Trudel-Day said, “come back to thank us.”

Encourage giving with events, original prizes

Last year, Concordia won an award from Centraide for increasing its giving by 52 per cent over the previous year.

However, the agency was being kind. We still only raised $65,014 — compare that to the $395,000 target set by the University of British Columbia for its current charity campaign. Our participation rate is only 17 per cent, only 320 employees.

This year, more than 60 students, faculty and staff have volunteered to make you aware of Concordia’s Centraide campaign and this year’s goal of $75,000 throughout the month of October. They are holding all sorts of events, including a squeegee day scheduled for Oct. 19 at the entrance of the J.W. McConnell parking garage.

Some supervisors have come up with original ideas to encourage their employees.
Andrew McAusland, head of IITS, is running a raffle in his department for a $250 case of wine. (Tickets are $10.)

Every employee who pledges to Centraide through a payroll deduction is eligible for some great prizes in the weekly raffle that starts Oct. 12 and runs weekly until Nov. 2. These range from items from the Concordia Bookstore to telephones, free courses from Continuing Education and a grand prize, as yet unannounced.

By now, you should have received your Centraide pledge form. Fill it out and return it in a confidential envelope provided to Human Resources, ER-500, SGW campus. If you have misplaced your pledge form, you can print another one off the Web site, at http://centraide.concordia.ca/.

Remember that if you pledged to Centraide last year, your pledge was for only one year; you must pledge again this year — and why not add $1 to that amount?

As part of the campaign, front-line community workers have been invited to Faculty Councils, Senate and the Board to explain how much they depend on this annual city-wide campaign. They have come from Autisme et troubles envahissants de développement Montréal, the Boys and Girls Club of Lasalle, Head and Hands, and the YMCA.

The co-chairs of Concordia’s campaign this year are Danielle Morin (JMSB) and Patricia Posius (Vice-Rector, Services).