Caring for the County: an Interview with Fraser Scantlebury - theHumm September 2020
Caring for the County: an Interview with Fraser Scantlebury - theHumm September 2020
theHumm is reaching out to members of our Ottawa Valley community to ask how they are finding ways to use their gifts and skills in these challenging times. Today’s subject is Fraser Scantlebury, the outgoing Regional Director at United Way East Ontario — Lanark, and a long-time community volunteer. We contacted him to find out how he’s feeling about stepping down from the position that he has held so capably for the past 7 years (while being at United Way for a total of 9 years and 7 months).
theHumm: What have been some of the highlights from your time with United Way East Ontario?
That is always a difficult question to answer. Foremost for me has been the ability to work with so many wonderful, caring, and compassionate people in Lanark County & Smiths Falls. My time at United Way provided me the opportunity to learn about the passion and dedication of the volunteers, staff in non-profit organizations, municipal and county offices, along with private businesses in all nine communities that make up the area United Way serves. Working with all of these great people to ensure that United Way was able to bring the resources needed to have impact within our communities, to help those who were in need, was a real joy. In 2015, we started to move towards a Community Impact approach to our work, which took a lot of effort and a willingness of our community to join with us on the journey, and one we continue on today. In February 2019, we saw the fruits of those efforts when United Way released the report A Profile of Vulnerable Seniors in the United Counties of Prescott and Russell, Lanark County, and Renfrew County. This marked the first time that Ontario’s rural seniors, and particularly those who are vulnerable, were the focus of a specific study. The data in that report is helping our partners and those in the wider community who are serving this population to better identify the needs of our seniors, in a rural setting. Two very positive outgrowths of that seminal report were the establishment of the Successful Ageing Advisory Committee that now meets monthly to share ideas and discuss issues, along with the development of the Seniors Vulnerability Index. The other major highlight for me was the amalgamation of United Way Lanark County with the United Ways of Prescott-Russell, Ottawa, and Renfrew County into the United Way East Ontario, that I worked on since 2013 to its fruition in April of 2017. While there certainly have been bumps on the road, overall, the effort has been very successful. For example, the Seniors Report would not have been possible without the amalgamation. I am also very excited to have been part of the team working to bring Planet Youth Lanark County into being, to help our youth lead better lives, and our communities to be stronger. Finally, I want to thank the volunteer members of the United Way Advisory Council, led by the Chair Helen McIntosh, for their support – without that I could not have enjoyed the success I have during my time with the organization.
What fond memories of being an active volunteer in this community will you carry into retirement?
I have to come back to that theme of people. Whether at United Way or other volunteer opportunities I have participated in, such as Arts Fusion, Puppets Up, The Hunger Stop Foodbank, Valley Players, Celtfest, The Mudds, the Humm Productions, the Mills Community Support (now Carebridge), Rotary, and others (I know I have left some out!), over the years it has always about the people. It is the opportunity to work with great people, who really, really, care and want to make our communities a better, more tolerant place to live, that drives my wish to volunteer. At the end when you sit together after whatever the project or event was and see not only the look of exhaustion, but also that grin of excitement of a job well done, that means so much. You know, when you volunteer, you receive so much more back than you give. My parents taught me that lesson early on in life – I saw them volunteering and the joy it brought to them, and it instilled me to follow in their footpaths. Both my sister Kathy and I have always volunteered – and we will continue to do so in retirement. A final note - there is one volunteering role that always gave me incredible pleasure to do. And that was playing Nick the Mascot for Puppets Up for nearly 10 years. After the festival weekend was over, my whole face would be so sore from smiling – and those smiles came from all of the children – and adult children – who reacted to Nick in such a positive fashion. For me, it brought home the idea that you need to smile on the inside to smile on the outside!
We’ve heard that you’ll be handing over the reins to a very capable Interim Regional Director. Do you have any thoughts on the particular challenges and opportunities she will be facing at this time?
I’m excited to work with Jane Torrance when she assumes the Acting Regional Director position for the last 5 weeks of my time with United Way. I’ve worked with Jane on a variety of projects since my early days in Almonte, and I know she will bring a similar passion of caring to the United Way. With the advent of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the landscape has changed dramatically for the non-profit charity sector, and there will be many new issues to address within both our local communities and the wider country. United Way is looking to work with the community on finding out how to move forward, and I know Jane will bring her dedication to her new role and reach out and involve all of United Way’s partners and the wider community in moving towards a more just and caring society.
How can the wider community best support UWEO in their work right now?
As we move into the fall, many local non-profit organizations will be struggling with aftermath of the first wave of the pandemic – they lost various fund raising opportunities and revenue generating activities and had to work hard to make changes to continue their work in this new environment. In many cases that meant reducing staff and curtailing vital programs for those in need within our nine communities. The United Way is facing those same challenges as we look to see how to support essential programs for seniors, youth, and families. We know these are tough times for many – but if you are able to support the work of United Way through donations, we would sincerely appreciate that www.unitedwayeo.ca/donate . We remain 100% Local which means that you donation stay right here in Lanark County & Smiths Falls. And if you are not in position to make a financial commitment, then offer up your talents and volunteer within your community to lend a hand to those in need.
What are you personally most concerned about during these tough times?
There has been a lot of talk about returning to “normal” after the pandemics expected second wave – my hope is that we do not return to normal – that we seek to do better and learn from the experience we have all lived through. That we need to support those who are challenged in our society – the homeless, the single parent, our seniors, our front line workers who we counted on daily but rarely make enough to live on. We need to do better and look at new ways to bring society, our communities, to a better place. We need to strive for better health care for our seniors and improved wages for those who care for them. There has to be better support for people living in poverty, so maybe now it is the time to look at the idea of a universal basic income. Most important, we need to make sure that there is justice and respect for those in our communities – indigenous and people of colour – who suffer discrimination on an on-going basis. If we lose this moment, if we just got back to what was “normal” before, then we will have lost an opportunity to be better, to show the humanity in all of us.
What are you optimistic about in terms of what happens to our community during and after the pandemic?
I have seen so many wonderful displays of support during this time. From volunteers delivering meals and groceries to seniors to the support for our essential workers – in health care and in those everyday jobs that allowed us to continue to live – to the efforts of people looking for new ways to support those in need within our communities. People checking to make sure neighbours are doing okay and staff in many organizations striving to find new solutions to do their vital work – from supporting youth or seniors to reaching out to those suffering from mental health issues to doing a simple thing like calling someone. That is what makes me optimistic that our communities both locally and nationally have the ability to get through this pandemic, and build a better community for all.
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