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They keep raising the bar, and they keep surpassing it. McGill's Centraide committee set their fundraising goal to a high $280,000 for 2005, and they announced at the end of March that they capped in at $282,385. On April 28, Principal Heather Munroe-Blum held an end-of-campaign reception for the committee in her office.
Centraide is a Greater Montreal organization that raises and distributes funds for community agencies and projects that help out those in physical, social or psychological need. McGill's Centraide committee has been in existence since the '80s.
McGill raises money through eclectic events such as the annual silent auction, the killer trivia night (questions courtesy of the fiendish bookstore maven Kimberly Stevenson), craft sales, tango soirees and the famous Human Resources bake sale at 688 Sherbrooke West McGill staff can also elect to donate a small part of each paycheque. According to McGill Centraide co-chair Judy Dear, agencies have told her that "they'd never be open if not for Centraide, because the funding from the government isn't sufficient."
For Munroe-Blum, Centraide is an important way "to say thank you to the community we serve." She addressed the committee proudly, pointing out that "we've overshot our goal two years in a row. We're the second largest university contributor — next year we should move to number one. If everyone who's never given gives $2 per paycheque, we'll be number one in the city."
Munroe-Blum singled out Judy Dear as an exemplary leader; "stalwart and driven."
She announced that dean of the Faculty of Law Nicholas Kasirer is stepping down as senior administrative representative and co-chair to be replaced by dean of the Faculty of Education Roger Slee. Kasirer will stay on as a chair of the leadership giving campaign.
Kasirer said, "Centraide provides us a sense of purpose and happy mission." Though he's been at McGill for 17 years, he added, "I don't think I understood the university as well as I have over the past two years" of this role.
Kasirer was full of praise for the co-chairs: in-coming Catherine Stace, "a great quiet diplomat with strategic strengths"; out- going Judy Dear, "an organizational mastermind"; and Janet Arts, who "used the language of a visionary, which few do so well."
He called the incoming Slee the "moral backbone of deans," then joked, "That may not be saying much…"
Slee's already got Centraide cred. He banged on the drums for the fundraising rock show put on by the band Diminished Faculties at Thomson House. "I thought that would disqualify me [from the committee]," Slee quipped, before adding, "I'm really looking forward to it, and I think I'll learn a lot."
As well, Anne Farray of the Faculty of Education was announced in-coming co-chair for Centraide. She's been the force behind the renowned HR bake sale, and is a welcome addition to the chairing team.
The committee members are a dedicated bunch who put in many, many hours above and beyond their work schedules. Salwa Ferahian, of libraries, has been on the committee for 10 years. "I do it so we will improve Montreal's being safe, and Montreal being a better place to live in."
Anna Cerrone of the office of the Dean of Science has been with the committee for four years, helping with the loonie-toonie line, doing French manicures and this year bringing email bingo to the roster of fundraisers. "It's an opportunity to help people less fortunate than others, and branch out to the greater Montreal community."
Janet Arts is a firm believer in Centraide's methods. They administrate funds carefully and screen agencies so that support doesn't go to groups that are duplicating services. Agencies apply to Centraide for funding, Centraide does spot checks by dropping in unannounced and audits them. "People at McGill don't realize how much Centraide helps people," Arts said. The university has links to many of the agencies that work with the community, from student interns to employed grads. And of course, more silently, there are those at McGill who have benefitted directly from the services provided.
Arts would like to see more people give money from their paycheque. If everyone deducted $2 per the 42 cheques received annually, over half a million dollars would be raised. "If they knew how far it would go, they'd do it," she said.