Richelle Serink


Richelle Serink

The mandate for United Way is something that I want to see for my community. And, if I don't support it, then I can’t say that. You have to support something if you want to see the changes that you're stating that you're going to make.

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Through all the educational pieces that we have at work, I learned everything that United Way does and trying to end poverty is something that I can really get behind, so I wanted to give support. 

I love creating the events that we do at work, like getting discovery speakers coming in and hearing their stories. Watching the staff that are there really be impacted by those presentations is just so moving for me and I really enjoy that. 

One impact speaker we had last year was so motivating and you're watching everybody in the room who’s like “Why wouldn’t I support causes like this?” When you see individuals as great as him and he’s giving back to the community as well and teaching others who are blind or legally blind that they’re not defined by their disability, but by their abilities is just pretty amazing to me.

You learn about people in our community, this is the situation that they’re in and that’s really unfortunate. But we need to do things that change that and obviously lift them out of poverty. 

However, it’s rewarding for me as well. We’re part of the corporate mentorship program with Big Brothers, Big Sisters; and I'm a mentor there. It’s really easy for me to take an hour out of my workday to volunteer with these kids. But I feel like the monetary contribution is more because I don't necessarily have a ton of time beyond that, beyond what I do within the campaign, mentoring Big Brothers, Big Sisters and doing things here and there. It’s finding a balance in how I can help personally, with a little bit of my time and a little bit of my money. 

When you're volunteering, you're going it for yourself too. You feel good after you go and volunteer. Sometimes I think “I’d love to take an hour to myself at lunch today, but I have mentoring.” Then I go to mentoring and I’m like “Why would I ever think that? I had fun today, I got to hang out with these kids that are full of energy”. Then I go back to work, and I think “That was awesome.”

I think it’s so funny that even being involved in it just fell in my lap in a way and I'm thankful that I get to be a part of the United Way campaign every year in various capacities. I love it. I really do. I love being a part of it. 

I love Edmonton, I want to live here for the rest of my life, probably. So I want the community to be a better place.


Bowhay Family


The Bowhay Family

Whether it’s requesting birthday gifts be donations to save endangered animals or volunteering time to community organizations, the Bowhay family values giving back to their community.

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Sheryl: I believe you pass on your values by doing not telling. We’ve been given the opportunity to be able to give the gift of time, in addition to the gift of financial support. I think it’s so important that people realize that philanthropy exists in many different ways. 

I'm a teacher and, as an educator, you really recognize how vulnerable youth and children are. The circumstances in which they’re in are not their doing so often. And it’s so vital that those around them - the family, the school, the community - are there to help them and create opportunity. Because in that early intervention, we see dramatic change and its impacts – I think the impact is just so huge at that entry level in our youth. We see that in our lives, in our community. 

Bob: When you see the need and you have the opportunity to support it, that’s what you do. The United Way gives us the capacity to make an impact on the community and gives us the opportunity to do that. We know that the funds are well stewarded, you know the programs are researched. For us to do that as an individual and try to make that impact with our dollars will take a lot of time and is probably beyond the scope of what we’re capable of doing. I saw firsthand how United Way does that. So, once you understand what United Way is doing and the impact it has on the community, we decided we needed to support it. 

Both Bowhay youth recognize the family value of giving doesn’t have to wait until they are adults. 

Connor: For my birthday sometimes, I ask for a little bit, maybe a twoonie, from all my friends instead of a present and I donate that. 

Hailey: By volunteering and donating time and other resources, it gives more people the ability to do that. So that’s very important.

Bob: We’re only as strong as our weakest link. If we’re able to help strengthen that weakest link, we hope to strengthen our entire community.

Sheryl: That’s what the United Way does, it improves people’s lives. It creates opportunity.


Fred Pheasey


Fred Pheasey 

Having lived his whole life in Edmonton, Fred Pheasey has been investing in United Way of the Alberta Capital Region for more than 30 years.  

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“To me, giving to United Way was pretty obvious. It was the non-profit of choice when I was raised to start saying “Hey, you know, I’ve done pretty well out of this community.” And now, I put a lot back and non-profit is a good way to do it and this is my one (charity) of choice.

Since I can’t go around and do it myself, I can’t determine who needs it most, who needs to be taken care of, but I thought United Way would do that job and do it well. And they have done it very well.”

Being raised in Alberta, Fred notes the issue that strikes the biggest chord for him is homelessness. 

“January is a tough time to be homeless in this city.”

He once had the opportunity to volunteer at a local homeless shelter.

“I went over one afternoon and stayed right through till about one o’clock in the morning. Then I came back at about 6:30.”

While he was there, Fred noted there were close to 450 people staying at the shelter in the dead of winter. 

“And the people that there was no room for at the shelter, had to live rough on the outside. And you look at it and you say, “There for the grace of God go I”.

Fred also notes it isn’t just about the people who receive help, but that those who give back to their community also benefit from the experience.

“Well, you get people involved in the community and your people just get better than they already are. We all do. I think I’m a better person for my involvement in it.”


Wendy Rabel


Wendy Rabel

Wendy learned the importance of giving back at a young age. Now she helps kids finish high school.

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“I came home from school one day and my mom was in the kitchen. I looked in the living room and noticed our couch was missing.

I looked at my mom and said, ‘What happened to the sofa?’ She said, ‘You should ask your dad.’

It turned out that my dad had learned about a parent in our school who had fled an abusive situation in her home. She and her kids had found a new place to live, but they didn’t have any furniture. So he came home and loaded up our sofa—one of those big sectionals—put it in the back of the truck, and took it over to her place.

This wasn’t the only time something went missing from our house because my dad was helping someone. That story stayed with me throughout the years. My dad’s example sent an important message to me at a young age: When people need help, we help them. That’s the house I grew up in.

I first became involved with United Way through a campaign in my workplace. I was looking for different ways to get involved in the community and met with a United Way staff member. She said, ‘I know exactly what I’m going to connect you with.’

I went to an initial meeting and heard a couple of amazing speakers talk about the work United Way was doing in the community, including some of the work they were doing with vulnerable youth to help them finish high school. 

I thought, ‘This is exactly the room I need to be in right now.’

Providing support to young people—through things like food programs and counselling—allows them to focus on school, and that is such an important step. Completing high school is a big gateway into so many other things in life. That support is crucial to help kids realize their potential.

If we can unleash that untapped potential in our community, the world’s going to change. All it takes is, ‘Yeah, I’m in’.”