Duo looks to show Western the Way

By Paul Mayne
October 10, 2013

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UNited WayPaul Mayne, Western News
Western United Way sponsored employee Natalie Samuel, left, along with WIL Employment Connections sponsored employee Maria Bozovic, who is assisting with the campus campaign, are confident Western will once again achieve its fundraising goal, to be announced Oct. 16.

Natalie Samuel understands surpassing Western’s record-breaking $746,101 donation to United Way of London & Middlesex will be a daunting task. But she’s up to the challenge.

“We have to have a positive and optimistic attitude that we are going to meet our goal, and we believe we can do it,” said Samuel, a recruitment coordinator in the Faculty of Law and Western’s United Way sponsored employee this year. This past year, more than 100 volunteers assisted with and 1,300 students, faculty and staff donated to the campaign.

“Taking into account the economic downturn, loss of businesses, high unemployment, it sounds tough. But it’s mind over matter and, in our mind, we will succeed.”

This past month, United Way of London & Middlesex announced its largest campaign goal in the organization’s history – $8.9 million. The 2013 goal is an increase of $150,000 over last year’s goal. Western’s 2013 United Way fundraising goal is set to be announced at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, at the Wave in the University Community Centre.

One person sure to be there, along side Samuel, is Maria Bozovic, a sponsored employee from WIL Employment Connections, who is assisting with Western’s campaign. A Western graduate, Bozovic said the personal stories of those who have benefited bring the campaign to life.

“It truly drives home the importance of the initiatives of the United Way, be it around poverty, mental health or peer counseling,” she said. “A lot of people in our community have been assisted by one of the United Way-funded agencies, be it themselves or that they know of someone who has. A lot of people may not be fortunate to have the family or friend support system to pull themselves out of difficult times. So, it really drives home how important the United Way is in so many lives.”

Bozovic added her short time with the United Way has already compelled her to continue with the organization even after the campaign.

“It has really opened my eyes as to how important United Way is to our city. It’s a challenge to be a part of it and I’m growing every day because of it.”

Samuel, just over a month into her four-month position, is already aware of the positive work the United Way does. At the same time, the need remains.

“For me it’s about getting into the community and seeing what’s really going on – that first-hand knowledge, as opposed to what you simply hear is happening,” she said. “Being able to witness it for yourself and understand it from a whole new perspective is tremendous.”

Even a recent visit to the London Coffee House, which she has passed countless times without a second thought, was a humbling experience. “I come to find out there were only two volunteers running the entire place, but they kept the flow going, which speaks to the great work they’re doing.”

Samuel knows the next two months will be an incredible amount of work, but what she’s taking away from the experience will continue to pay dividends down the road.

“It pushes you outside your comfort zone and forces you to address some of the preconceived notions you may have, whether you know it or not. It changes you all around and the people you interact with, you hope you leave some of yourself with them.”

So be it financial, or even volunteering your time with an agency, Samuel said it all makes a difference.

“Often people will think in order to make a difference it has to be a huge financial donation, myself included, but I’ve learned that every little bit counts,” she said. “Even if it’s volunteering to collect and organize books for children in need or a small donation. It may seem like small things, but they all add up.”

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Western’s 2013 United Way fundraising goal is set to be announced at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, at The Wave in the University Community Centre.


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