Staff Reflections: Francesca (Executive Director)


As I start my 20th year with the United Way, I’ve been doing a lot of reflection. What’s changed, what are some big wins, where we just couldn’t get any traction on issues, and those personal moments of sheer joy that just get you out of bed every day.

One memorable moment for me was during a “Stuff the Bus” event a couple of years ago. We’re just hanging out, outside the Owen Sound Staples store, chatting with donors, volunteers, store employees, and watching the McDonald’s drive-thru action.

An older model, mini van pulled up right in front of the bus. I was a bit alarmed at first due to the safety aspect but felt something special was about to happen.


A young woman got out of the passenger side, and the driver, an older woman, leaned out the window, and I got up to talk to her.

“I wanted to thank you guys” she started. “I have custody of my grandkids”, and she…” she gestured to the young woman who was coming around the back of the van, with bags of school supplies. “She just graduated from high school in the spring.” Her voice cracked as she said it, and she turned from me to look out the windshield to compose herself.

“You did good!” I said to her, smiling. I turned to the granddaughter, who sort of rolled her eyes in a “grandma’s being dramatic” way, but the smile also said she was touched by her grandmother’s pride in her completing high school.

Turning back to the grandmother, I thanked her for her support. “It’s my turn to now give back, you were there for me the entire time for all the kids. I may be back with more supplies, how late are you here?”

I answered her questions and then waved as she drove away.

Turning back to the volunteers who were all a little misty-eyed as well, I simply said “this is why we do what we do!” and loaded the donations onto the bus, taking a moment to blink back my own tears.

There are many stories like this over the past 19 years. I still bounce out of bed every morning anticipating the day and looking forward to tackling our society’s biggest and littlest challenges.