Creating Healthy Communities

United Way Yukon is a charity that raises money to fund Yukon organizations. Its mandate is to fund programs that enhance the “physical, mental and social well-being” of Yukoners. So says Brian Bonia, who is United Way Yukon’s campaign cabinet director. It is a volunteer position.

An example of these organizations are Blood Ties Four Directions in Whitehorse, Autism Yukon, the Child Development Centre, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Nakai Theatre and Yukon Learn, to name a few.

This article was written on September 29, the day before the annual United Way pancake breakfast. Bonia figures this breakfast is the biggest indoor event of the year in the Yukon, and it rakes in around $20,000 a year.

But, the breakfast is just the start of the fundraising. October is also United Way’s Yukon Workplace Campaign, where organizations encourages workplaces to encourage employees to donate a bit of money off each paycheque.

This year United Way’s campaign is Everyday Heroes. The theme is a “celebration of all the amazing helpers, volunteers and donors who make the Yukon great,” wrote Roslyn Woodcock in an email. Woodcock is another United Way volunteer. She says she’s been wearing her superhero costume around the office lately, to get in the spirit of the campaign theme.

Elisabeth Lexow started Big Brothers and Big Sisters in 2013 in Watson Lake. She runs it and she is a Big Sister. She was nominated as an Everyday Hero by United Way for her volunteerism.

There are currently two big sisters in Watson Lake, and two more who are applying to be mentors. Lexow’s hope is that this article will rustle up more volunteers. She believes Big Brothers and Sisters has merits for young people. Further, she says her volunteerism has enhanced her own life, “It’s so satisfying, and so much fun. I mean, I play tag. At my age? It’s really wonderful, that’s all I can say.”

Yukon Learn gets money from United Way, it goes toward putting on the Poverty and Homelessness Action Week, one Whitehorse Connects, and the Outreach Computer Program.

Yukon Learn collaborates with the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition to run the Poverty and Homelessness Action Week and Whitehorse Connects.

This year the action week runs from Oct. 16 to 21. Whitehorse Connects was on Oct. 5. “It is the sexier of the two events. I think,” said Kristina Craig, Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition coordinator, of Whitehorse Connects. Craig is also an Everyday Hero nominee.

It is a welcoming and safe space for the community to connect, said Craig. “It’s about accessing services,” — people can check their blood pressure, get foot care, bring a pet to see a vet, or get a haircut. Or have a cup of coffee and listen to some music.

The point of the Poverty and Homelessness Action week is to “Get people to think a little differently about poverty,” said Craig.

The week has been going on for about eight years now. When it first started, Craig said people in Whitehorse didn’t think there were homeless people. She says now, people realize that the community has some serious issues, “We have vulnerable people, and the services aren’t in place to help them.”

Change is slow, said Craig, but having the ability and funds to concentrate effort on raising awareness is good — “We’re all living here,” said Craig. “I think it is clear that your community is only as healthy as everyone in it.”

To learn more about United Way’s October campaign go to

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