Their annual charity golf tournament may have gotten scrapped by the coronavirus pandemic, but that didn’t stop LiUNA Local 1059 members from rallying together to continue the initiative’s long-running goal: raising money for United Way Elgin Middlesex.
The construction union local has held the tournament every year since 2001, and as of 2016, had raised more than $1 million in total for the organization. Recent years have seen more than $100,000 raised during each golf outing.
This year was supposed to mark the 20th edition of the tournament, however officials announced over the summer that the coronavirus pandemic had forced the cancellation of the fundraiser.
Instead of taking the news lying down, members sprang to action and ended up collecting a record $147,000 in donations from past tournament participants and sponsors, said Brandon MacKinnon, business manager for LiUNA Local 1059.
“Our members, our industry partners and our signatory contractors, when given the call to step up this year, all were able to deliver,” he said.
“Our industry in general has been well off during the pandemic compared to some other industries, and it’s great to be able to give back to United Way that supports member agencies and does such a great job in the community.”
According to organizers, the union local matched “a significant portion of all funds raised” dollar fundrfor dollar.
MacKinnon and other LiUNA 1059 members presented the cheque to local United Way officials Friday morning during a small presentation event at the union’s Wilton Grove Road office.
Jennepher Cahill, director of development for the United Way Elgin Middlesex, was among those on hand, and described being overwhelmed by the amount raised.
“Every year, 1059 does an amazing job and every year they come forward with a great amount that makes a huge difference in our community… But this was really way above and beyond what we were expecting, especially given the fact that they weren’t able to hold their actual tournament,” she said.
“They held us in suspense. They wouldn’t tell us what the total was until we arrived, so when we actually saw that cheque, we were really impressed and so grateful.”
The money from LiUNA will help the United Way and its partner agencies in delivering much-needed support programs to those in the community, supports that are needed now more than ever.
The region was already struggling with issues around housing and food security before the pandemic arrived, throwing the lives of many Londoners into disarray and rocketing the region’s jobless rate to a 12.6 per cent high — a tally that has only fallen to 8.9 per cent as of last month.
“We have, in our region, the third highest child poverty rate per capita in Canada, and we were really working hard with our partner agencies to address those issues,” Cahill said.
“Then when COVID hit, vulnerable families who previously had been living paycheque to paycheque, suddenly found that they couldn’t make ends meet.”
The United Way has seen the local financial and societal impacts of the coronavirus pandemic first hand, recording a ten-fold increase in demand over the summer at its South London Neighbourhood Resource Centre.
“They were serving about 100 families a month. This year, in July, they served a thousand families… That kind of need is what we have to be looking to address and have things in place to be able to meet that need for the coming winter,” Cahill said.
“The fact that LiUNA 1059 recognizes the importance of that work and is willing to reach out and support that work is incredibly meaningful and really helps.”
Information on how to donate to United Way Elgin Middlesex can be found here.
— With files from Andrew Graham