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LiveWorkPlay & United Way Ottawa: Making Connections, Changing Lives

For 80 years, with the help of thousands of volunteers in hundreds of business and government workplaces across the city, United Way Ottawa holds one of the most successful workplace campaigns in Canada. Donors contribute through payroll deductions or online giving, corporate gifts and through special fundraising events. These events also serve to engage employees and increase their awareness of the impact they have on the community. The campaign helps support programs and services affecting thousands of people in the city.

The United Way Ottawa Focus Area of “Belonging To Community” includes the priority of supporting employment for people with disabilities. With this issue and others, LiveWorkPlay partners with United Way Ottawa on multiple levels. This includes:

1) A priority area partner: LiveWorkPlay has benefited from a three-year funding agreement of approximately $45,000 per year in support of the employment of youth and adults with intellectual disabilities.

2) LiveWorkPlay is an original member of the Employment Accessibility Resource Network (EARN) hosted by United Way Ottawa, which allows employers to network, share best practices and learn more about employees with disabilities. At the same time, it makes it easier for service providers to identify employment opportunities for their clients.

3) LiveWorkPlay Co-Leader Keenan Wellar is in his second year serving as a Focus Area Champion for Belonging To Community, participating on the Campaign Cabinet, supporting public launch events in local workplaces, and participating in media events.
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More than 1,000 volunteers, community leaders, celebrities and partners gathered on September 26 at the Ernst and Young Centre to help launch United Way Ottawa’s Community Campaign. Joined by the campaign team, Co-Chairs Barbara Crook, philanthropist and a director of the Danbe Foundation, and Goldy Hyder, President of Hill+Knowlton Strategies Canada, announced a fundraising target of $21 million aimed at changing the lives of more than 76,000 people in our community.

Goldy and Barbara were  joined by members of the United Way Ottawa communications team on October 25 to learn more about how LiveWorkPlay supports individuals and works with employers to develop successful employment relationships. Organized by the LiveWorkPlay Employment Supports team, this mini seeing is believing tour was hosted by co-owner Grant Webb at The WORKS Gourmet Burger Bistro location in Orleans. Grant and Dave Demers were recognized for their community leadership at the LiveWorkPlay Engines of Success celebration last June.

But the stars of the show on October 25 were Ryan Nevitt, Melissa Cunningham, and Cooper Gage. Ryan is a Barrhaven WORKS employee, Melissa is a staff member of the Orleans location, and Cooper is a long-time employee of MBNA/TD Bank in Gloucester. Always enthusiastic about telling their own stories to help others, Melissa has appeared in past United Way Ottawa promotional campaigns, Cooper was recently featured in a newspaper article, and Ryan was part of an online news video.

“LiveWorkPlay is a great example of an initiative where everyone wins. Employers access much needed loyal, hard-working productive labor and employees with disabilities,” said Goldy. “They are able to realize their desire to be productive, independent, income-earning people. They have proven to be amongst the hardest workers in their jobs. Barbara and I were touched by the stories of each of the people we met and have been sharing their stories on our workplace visits about the impact United Way partners like LiveWorkPlay have in our community.”

More than 150,000 people in Ottawa live with a physical, intellectual or mental health disability and only 43% living with disabilities in Ottawa participate in the labour market compared to 70% of the general population. The statistics paint an even more daunting picture for people with intellectual disabilities, where only about 25% of the working age population are employed. Those who are engaged with LiveWorkPlay in pursuing employment are more than twice as likely to experience success!

“One of the highlights of our recent Seeing is Believing tour was meeting some of the young people who’ve been helped by LiveWorkPlay,” said Barbara. “Melissa, Ryan and Cooper are living independently and working in good jobs. I learned from owner Grant Webb that despite a commute of more than 90 minutes, Melissa’s always the first employee to arrive. Her main job is cleaning, but now she’s learning food prep. Cooper has maintained his employment for more than a decade despite mergers and other changes in the company.”

Barbara also noted that in addition to sharing enthusiasm for his work, Cooper he was equally enthusiastic about his involvement with LiveWorkPlay, which dates all the way back to 1998 when he was fresh out of high school. Cooper shared stories of travel experiences and Ryan weighed in with talk of social opportunities that LiveWorkPlay facilitates for its members through connections made with others in the community. It all makes for a great partnership with a shared focus: LiveWorkPlay was recognized with a 2013 United Way Ottawa Community Builder of the Year award for Belonging To Community.

“The work of LiveWorkPlay benefits everyone involved,” said Barbara. “The individuals they are directly supporting are not only supported to find work, they also learn how to enjoy the Ottawa community and make new friends. Their parents are thrilled to see their kids blossom and become more independent. And the employers get dedicated and conscientious workers. Goldy and I were totally inspired by our visit!”

Are you getting ready to make your own contribution to the United Way Ottawa campaign? Remember that you have several options, including specifying that all or a part of your donation goes to a specific priority such as the one identified as “People with disabilities: create job opportunities.” You can also direct all or part of your donation to “Other Charitable Giving Choices which includes LiveWorkPlay (896222775RR0001).

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