Irene Emery’s involvement in the United Way has spanned decades.
It was the first charity to which she donated as a little girl. She turned to it in a time of need. And for more than 20 years, she’s dedicated countless hours to encouraging people to support it.
“Every dollar makes a difference in somebody’s life — regardless of whether the United Way helps feed people at the mission or helps a single mother learn to cope or helps a drug addict with their addictions,” says Emery, who is finance representative for Carleton’s United Way campaign this year.
While she was busy raising four children and working in Carleton’s business office, Emery’s managed to fill a variety of roles every year with the United Way campaign, including co-chairing it and organizing special events.
But she says she’s constantly motivated to keep volunteering her time to the organizations because of the stability it gave her in the ‘90s as a single mom of four children, aged six to 17.
Emery started using the Catholic Family Services, an organization supported by the United Way, which helped her learn how to prioritize and cope with single motherhood.
“There were mornings in the beginning when I didn’t want to get out of bed and they gave me those skills to get up,” she says. “Now, I’m just paying it forward. I just want to pay back what I got.”
The reason the United Way is important is because it offers services for everyone and many people are able to turn to it in times of need, says Emery.
“Believe me, there are more families out there that have used it than anybody knows and that’s what they’re there for. They do feed the poor, but there are other people in the community that you may not know who have used something that is sponsored by the United Way.”
This year, Emery hopes to see more participation in Carleton’s United Way campaign and new donors, including students and staff, who are new to Carleton.
“I realize there’s been an economic crisis and we’re all hurting,” she says. “But think of the people out there who are hurting a lot more than we are. Every dollar counts.”