The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped our lives, but nowhere has the impact been felt greater than by those who were already struggling.
Issues like homelessness, hunger and inequality were hurting communities across Canada before the pandemic. COVID-19 has only amplified these issues, leaving many more Canadians vulnerable.
3.3 million Canadians live in poverty every day and struggle to pay rent, find work, and feed their children.1
With so many people struggling to meet basics needs and access supports to find their footing, we must act, lift each other up, and help our neighbours in need.
3M Harvest Lunch: Bringing everyone to the table
Volunteerism runs incredibly deep at 3M. Working to make a difference is part of our culture and key to who we are. With a focus on involving our employees, we invest in partnerships that support the environment, STEM education and underserved families.
The United Way is one of those key partnerships.
Employees are particularly proud to be involved in the annual 3M Harvest Lunch, as the kick-off to the Elgin-Middlesex United Way campaign. This event really captures the spirit of community, as thousands of people in London and St. Thomas, Ontario typically attended this annual community lunch to help set the tone and energy of the United Way campaign.
However, COVID-19 changed that.
In 2020, we could no longer host 2,000 people at London’s downtown event centre, due to pandemic restrictions. But, when life gives you lemons, you find a way to make a thirst-quenching lemonade.
Through our partnership with the United Way of Elgin Middlesex, we brainstormed and pivoted to create a new opportunity to give back. Instead of selling lunch to United Way supporters, we asked those community members to purchase a meal for someone in need; for someone who may only have one meal that day.
The reimagined 3M Harvest Lunch was a huge success. With a goal of providing 2,000 meals, the generosity of the community came shining through with nearly 3,500 meals purchased, delivered, and enjoyed.
This program also helps local restaurants, who are also facing their own journey of recovery from pandemic restrictions. For every Harvest Lunch ticket that is purchased, a locally owned restaurant receives that business and fills the orders. Meals are then delivered to a local agency.
Our 3M employees step up to volunteer helping to distribute the freshly made, nutritious meals to those in need. So many 3M employees raised their hands to help, we had to start a waiting list.
This new take on the 3M Harvest Lunch was so successful, we are continuing it in 2021. And we’re excited that we’re expanding the 3M Harvest Lunch to partner with the United Way of Leeds and Grenville.
“This program is a win, win, win, win! You are buying a lunch for someone in need, from a local business, delivered by local 3M volunteers and you get to be a part of helping someone’s journey to move ahead in life.”
-Trish Buote, Executive Director United Way Leeds and Grenville
Together, we can create stronger, more resilient communities.
I’m inspired by the way the community came together around the 3M Harvest Lunch (and other United Way campaign events) to create a new way to give back. When we work with each other, for each other, we create better outcomes for everyone.
This fall, I have committed to doing what I can to help inspire even more generosity in my community. I am honoured to take on the role of Campaign Chair of the 2021 United Way of Elgin-Middlesex.
The role of Campaign Chair is also referred to as “Chief Changemaker”. I believe we are all changemakers, with the potential to make a difference and make an impact. My role as Campaign Chair is to activate more changemakers by encouraging and lifting those around me. I look forward to speaking to the volunteers, the dedicated workplaces, and people in the community to empower them to be generous, kind and empathetic.
As we begin the 2021 United Way campaign in our communities, this is our chance to show our local love. Every donation, each hour of volunteering, and every act of kindness makes a difference in the communities where we work and play.
The United Way supports essential local programs and services in our communities that provide the essentials to help end the cycle of poverty: stable housing, education, employment, health, and family services. A fair and equitable recovery is within reach, but only if we reach out to lend a helping hand.
COVID-19 has forced many of us to turn inwards and isolate to protect ourselves, our families, and our community members. Now, as we see a shift in the pandemic and the opportunity to look outward again, it’s my hope that as we reconnect in our communities, selflessness will emerge as the greatest agent of change.
1. Statistics Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/catalogue/11-627-M2020018