Chief Mark Saunders said giving to the United Way ensures everyone gets the helping hand they need to succeed.
“There isn’t anybody in this room who has not needed help from someone, at some point in time, to get to where you are at today,” he said, at this year’s Toronto Police Service United Way fundraising campaign launch on September 20 at police headquarters. “The important thing is whether or not you reach out and help others and that’s what United Way is all about. It reminds us that it is important and something that is critical to society for it to continue to grow and develop.”
In 2017, members generously contributed $376,000 to the organization that funds social agencies and addresses poverty.
Toronto Police Services Board Vice-Chair Jim Hart is a huge believer in United Way, having been the City of Toronto’s leadership chair before retiring four years ago.
“United Way plays an extraordinarily significant role in efforts to improving long-term health for our community with a focus on addressing social issues,” he said. “The organization examines real causes, conducts ground-breaking research and collaborates on task forces in order to enable people to make positive and lasting changes in their lives… Both the Toronto Police Services Board and the Toronto Police Service are committed to the importance of building, strengthening and empowering the neighbourhoods of our city in order to increase crime prevention and create safe communities. I believe that these efforts of the Service and the Board are very much aligned with the work of United Way.”
This year’s theme is “Celebrating Partnerships.”
Superintendent Rob Johnson, the president of the Senior Officers’ Organization, and Toronto Police Association civilian field services director Ed Costa made donations on behalf of their organizations to kick off the campaign.
United Way Greater Toronto senior vice-president of donor relations and marketing Goodwin Gibson thanked the Service for its steadfast support over the years.
“Few organizations are as connected to the community as the Toronto Police Service, who do really have a frontline view of the challenges our community is facing and have been a valuable long-term partner for us as we tackle some of the most unignorable issues,” he said. “Nothing more exemplifies that than the work we have done together on a program called ‘FOCUS Toronto’.”
Launched five years ago, FOCUS is an innovative approach led by Toronto Police, the City of Toronto and United Way Toronto & York Region, that aims to reduce crime and victimization and improve community resilience and well-being.
The model brings together the most appropriate community agencies at a weekly situation-table model to provide a targeted, wrap-around approach to the most vulnerable individuals, families and places that are experiencing heightened levels of risk in a specific geographic location.
Gibson said the program has addressed over 1,400 situations, with an 82 per cent success rate, since its inception in 2013.
As part of this year’s campaign, a sock drive to benefit people using United Way agencies was launched with the help of Campaign Chair Superintendent Reuben Stroble, McGregor Industries vice president of Sales Rob Stanley and Haven Toronto executive director Lauro Monteiro.
A donation box for new socks will be set up at Toronto Police Service headquarters as well as police stations. It is estimated that people using shelters in the city will walk as many as 15 km each day to access social services.
“When the rubber hits the road, what you really need is to give back to the people who really need it and, I think, a sock program from our perspective is really a very appropriate program,” said Stroble.
Toronto Police Service United Way Greater Toronto fundraising has seen over $9 million raised by Service members over the past 20 years.