About seven months ago, United Way of Greater Toronto President and CEO Daniele Zanotti experienced first-hand the Toronto Police Service’s (TPS) connectivity to the community it cares for when he received an e-mail from a United Way counsellor.
A teenager hiding in the children’s section of a local library reached out to him for help after being caught in a human trafficking ring.
“He knows where I live, he has a gun, he finds me everywhere but here, he’s in a gang and he sells me out in crappy motels for money,” the 16-year-old typed. “I am just 16 and I want to be 16.”
Agreeing to accept help, the counsellor pinged the United Way-funded Victim Services Toronto who in turn connected the young girl to supports and police officers.
“The police arrived shortly after and when the counsellor assured the girl it was safe to come outside, she did so, falling into the arms of a network of care, the power that you support year in and year out in your TPS campaign,” said Zanotti at this year’s United Way fundraising campaign launch on September 10 at police headquarters.
“More than anyone, you know, you have lived it and you see. There’s no one program or agency or solution. There’s a United Way invisibility of holding this city together in the hand of care.”
Every Wednesday afternoon across this city, TPS, United Way and frontline community agencies sit and triage cases through United Way’s FOCUS initiative.
Launched six years ago, FOCUS is an innovative approach led by the Service, 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.
“Hundreds of cases of mental health, human trafficking or gangs are triaged away from courts and back into the hands of community,” Zanotti said. “Thank you all for bringing life to our most comprehensive effort to curb poverty and violence in this city. This is the power of people and agencies coming together to change lives.”
Last year’s campaign raised $340,000. This year’s goal is to exceed that amount by at least $10,000.
Chief Mark Saunders was recognized with three coins for his generosity and support of United Way in the last three years as a Leadership donor.
“The thing I like about United Way is that it is adaptable, it is changeable and it doesn’t stay on one system,” said Saunders. “Again, we are asking everybody to reach deep. I had no problem in becoming part of the leadership program because I see how United Way works first-hand. My challenge is if you have never ever being involved in the leadership team, become part of it and the leaders program and you will see the great value that it adds.”
This year’s theme is The Power of One.
“You are one person, but you are effecting many others,” said Supt. Reuben Stroble who is the Campaign Chair. “As a police service, in order to address the needs of a large city and to make our community safe, we know that we can’t do it alone and we must look at collaborative solutions and new partnerships if we truly want to make a difference. It is for this reason that we have focused on creating community partnerships to show our members how their donations have a direct impact on our service delivery.”
The Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack made a $5,000 donation to kick-start the campaign while Catherine Martin-Doto presented a cheque for $500 on behalf on the Senior Officers Organization.
Councillor Michael Ford represented the Toronto Police Services Board at the launch.