For 28 years CEO Lynda Kay has been the highly recognisable force behind United Way Northumberland. She is poised to step down from her position soon but not before her successor is appointed.
The Cobourg-based charity recently moved into its new digs at 62 Swayne Street in downtown Cobourg. Previously it had occupied offices along with Northumberland County on William Street and before that in the Fleming Building on Elgin Street.
Due to the substantial financial assistance of Cobourg Accountant Karol Shaw, the UW was able to purchase the building on Swayne Street and Big Brothers Big Sister organization were also able to move into the premises.
The move has proven to be a good one. “It is nice being downtown. We find we are getting a fair bit of street traffic. People coming in to see us. We really like that. It’s nice and accessible downtown. The staff are enjoying going to all the downtown restaurants,” she says.
Now that the initial bumps that come with moving into a new location have sorted themselves out Lynda is anticipating retirement.
“I am looking forward to a slower pace. It’s been a great job but a demanding one. These days I see a lot of change in the fund raising … We have been looking at how we do that … The board is about to go through some strategic planning. Life has changed a lot in the fund raising world. “
It’s all coming together for her. “It is nice to think that this is a good achievement getting this building and I thought it was a good time to hang up my hat.”
Lynda will be “staying in Cobourg and looking forward to having some time to myself. I will be doing something part time (consulting and volunteering).
Of course, she adds she will continue as a member of Northumberland Hills Hospital Board and the Cobourg Rotary Club.
When she started in 1989, she was a big city transplant with little knowledge of small town associations.
“When I came to Cobourg, I didn’t know anything … When I was brought up, I did a lot of stuff in the church but my parents weren’t involved in service clubs. It wasn’t in my world. Then I got involved and I liked it (Kinettes then Rotary).” She started out 30 years ago with arts and craft festival that was the precursor to the Rotary Club Waterfront Festival which she is chairing this year.
When Lynda came on board the United Way, the yearly budget was $250,000 and Ross Quigley was the Chair of that year’s campaign. The latest campaign over one million dollars was raised. “There have been a lot of changes. All of the organizations that UW funds have grown.”
“We have been able to build capacity in organizations that were very grass roots. I think that has had big impact on the community and I am glad to have been part of that over the years.”
Looking back on the successes she was part of she says, “ We helped out about a dozen organizations initially. The Help Centre has always been a big recipient. Like the other groups, they have grown and so have their needs. In the case of the Centre, the money it receives has more than doubled. Back in the day, the United Way was involved in some national campaigns such as Canadian Institute for the Blind and the Canadian Red Cross, the Arthritis Society but now they (what UW Northumberland funds) are mostly local.”
What is she proud to have participated in?
“ Lots of different things. We got the Day of Caring going over 20 years ago.
That has been an amazing project with the United Way being a coordinator along with a number of corporate partners. Last year we had 150 volunteers at 40 sites. We are going to see that happening again this year.”
“We started the Food for All Warehouse. We were part of that getting it established. That has had a great impact on food security in Northumberland. The food banks and the school breakfast programs.
The Backpacks for Kids program has been going for 14 years. There are lots of organizations we have been involved with. We have seen them grow and develop and become very strong. There was Northumberland Services for Women where Cornerstone is today. “
When asked about the fun parts she mentions, “Dragon boat races. Dunk tanks. Polar Bear Dips. Lots of golf tournaments.Met lots of great people. I think of all the different Campaign Chairs I have known over the years. The events we have done.”
One of the fundamental aspects of the United Way that has become apparent to her is, “We are a huge resource for organizations. We do a lot of stuff in the background. People calling us. Providing advice. Providing support. Got a call the other day, they said ‘One thing about United Way, they are big connectors.’”
“We connect organizations to different things. Provide resources for different things. As people “Google” something, people look at us a ‘connector.’”
Lest some worry that the United Way is losing a key element with the departure of Lynda, don’t.
“I just love Cobourg and the county. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else. It just has so much to offer. Lots of great people. Lots of things happening.
“United Way will always be part of my Life.”
info:mynu.org: 62 Swayne Street, Cobourg: 905.372.6955