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Donor Stories


Joan Ethier & Doug Pearson

Joan and her husband Doug moved to the Nanaimo area in 2006 to retire after working for many years in Calgary. Joan was involved in United Way in Calgary and feels strongly about supporting the community that is her new home.

Joan and Doug both believe in giving back where they can and contributing close to home. The United Way model ensures funds go to local agencies that need it the most, supporting programs that make a difference in people's lives.

When we give to United Way we know our donation is an effective way to support a wide variety of worthwhile programs in our community, including those provided by numerous smaller organizations.

Contributing to our community is important to us and United Way provides a trusted vehicle to allow us to help those who need it most.  


Louie Lapi and Gail Hudson

louie and gail

For long-time United Way donors, Louie and Gail, giving to United Way started as a way to show their kids when they were in their pre-teens the value of giving back to the community they live in. Instilling a sense of philanthropy in their kids and showing the value of choosing a charity they believe in was very important to them. Giving was an annual event that the whole family was involved in and the legacy of giving to United Way has continued since then.

Louie and Gail have lived in the Cassidy area for over 40 years. Louie worked at the Pacific Biological Station as a biologist before retiring over 10 years ago.

Louie and Gail say they feel good knowing that their donation goes to people in the community who are in need. While they may not know the particular needs in any given year, they know that United Way gets their donation to programs that help the most vulnerable in our community.

By donating to the United Way, Louie and Gail make Central Island a stronger place for people to live, work and raise their kids. 

By donating to the United Way Louie and Gail know that the community becomes a stronger place for people to live, work and raise their kids. 


Christopher Briggs - Volunteer & Leadership Donor

Giving has become part of who I am. Being engaged in a place you call home is important.

Christopher Briggs is only 30, but he has been involved with United Way for nine years. He first got involved in 2004 through a workplace campaign at the CIBC branch he worked at in Nanaimo. Before too long he was running a workplace campaign at his branch. Then he sat on the Board from 2008-10. For the past four years he has volunteered at the United Way Starlight Galaxy Film Festival for teens. Since 2010 he has been a leadership donor.

Christopher currently works as an Investment Advisor at CIBC Wood Gundy. He is willing to talk about the impact of United Way to anyone interested in knowing more. Through his career he has come into contact with people who have used United Way funded programs in times of need and who are now thriving.  When Christopher was growing up his mom suffered with long bouts of depression. Christopher believes that if his family would have been aware of the services available his mom might have been able to get the help she needed. His personal experience and the testimonials from others helped by United Way keep him volunteering and donating.

Christopher has called Nanaimo home his whole life and plans to retire here. He loves the lifestyle and he is thriving in a career he is passionate about.

"To truly feel a part of a community you need to participate it in. By supporting the United Way, I am making an investment in where I live. Finding a way to give back locally helps build a stronger community and I feel really good about that."

Marlene Toivonen - Leadership Donor

marlene t

For more years than she can remember Marlene Toivonen has been involved with the United Way. She started as an Employee Campaign Coordinator and served as a board member and then president of the board for a number of years. Marlene is a leadership donor who believes in her community and the vision of the United Way.

Marlene leads a busy life, with a demanding and rewarding career as a Regional Manager for Human Resources and Skills Development Canada where she clocks many miles on the plane travelling for her job.

Marlene is passionate about Nanaimo and supporting people in her community, as she knows first-hand the difference support can make. There was a time in Marlene's life where things were very difficult. She found herself in Nanaimo in the middle of the night, with no job, no money and looking to start over. She was a single mom who needed training to get back into the job market, as well as programs and services to support her family. She found these programs with open arms, willing to support her as she made changes in her life. She has never forgotten the difference that made for her family. 

Marlene was encouraged from a young age to pay it forward and it is one of the reasons that she gives.

"Why do I give?  Look around - neighbours, friends, family, co-workers, the stranger on the street or the person who served you today and instead ask, why not? Everyone, everywhere at some point in their life needs someone to care and assist them through a difficult time and United Way agencies are there to do just that!"

By giving, Marlene is doing what she can to help our community come together through the United Way.


Jim and Alice Forsyth - Leadership Donors

jim and alice

Knowing their donation makes a difference is why Jim and Alice Forsyth give to United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island. The recently retired couple has called Campbell River their home for 18 years.

Both Jim and Alice see the increasing need in Campbell River and truly believe in contributing to the development and vibrancy of their community. United Way funded programs make a difference by funding organizations who provide opportunities for kids and youth, support a healthy community and help people break free from poverty. It is important to them that their donation dollars stay local, as they can see first hand the impact of their help.

Jim and Alice give because, "Through United Way, your dollars help people who need it the most. That is important to us. We like how United Way selects which organizations to support through a community consultation process based on the current need for people in Campbell River."

By being leadership donors, Jim and Alice are contributing to real change in their community.

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