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Together We Can

I have just completed my first year as the Chief Executive at United Way South Australia (UWSA) and was recently asked “was the job what you expected?”. This gave me pause to reflect back over the 12 months and coming into the organisation as an outsider with only a limited understanding of the United Way movement and the South Australian office.

My first engagement with UWSA was at the SA Community Achievement Awards presentation. I wasn’t due to start until the Monday and I had just arrived on the Saturday morning from Ceduna after four years working as the CEO of the Yalata. That night we were acknowledged as a Connected Community Award semi finalist for the United We Read program. Then on my first day we were awarded the 2015 Northern Messenger Resilient Community Partnerships Award. Already I knew immediately we were doing something special.

UWSA President Mark Phelps, Kellie Bartlam and Minister Susan Close MP at the SA Community Achievement Awards

During 2016 we have made some important achievements – the launch of Read Aloud Every Child Every Day by the Minister for Education Susan Close, the 10th Annual Children’s Zoo Day, becoming a Public Benevolent Institution with Deductible Gift Recipient status, moving Bingo back to Playford Civic Centre, reaching 450 registration in the United We Read program, over 80 community events were held, recognising author Mem Fox as the Read Aloud Ambassador at Government House, new Board members adding their energy to the team, our new Website being launch as well as other initiative through connections to the Uni SA, Torrens Uni and Adelaide University, and we reach out to many new partners.

However, it was the visit by Jose Ferrao, the International Vice President of United Way Worldwide, in September that opened my eyes to the United Way ethos. All the good work we are doing in early childhood development to assist kids in need with their literacy learning is important but the United Way is to bring the whole community on that journey.

It is not just about the child and their family and connecting to other service providers (which we do well), but also bringing the broader community along in support. This is through donors, individuals, businesses and government, providing the income to support programs such as United We Read. It is having volunteers who help with fundraising, who support our many events, who work in the office and are ready to answer the call when needed. It is about having advocates, beyond the great support of the Board, who can talk about our good work to people we might not otherwise meet.

We are already making a difference to children’s lives but no matter how much good work is undertaken by our talented staff and volunteers this work will not be sustained unless we mobilise the support of the whole community. Our theme for 2017 is Together We Can so I hope you will join us so that in a united way we can together make our community a better one for all.

Greg Franks, Chief Executive, United Way SA

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