how we help

Our Special Initiatives



What is 211?

  • 211 is an award-winning telephone help line and website that serves as a gateway to community, social, non-clinical health, and government services.
  • 211 helps people navigate the complex network of human services quickly, easily, and for free.
  • 211 is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week, and in over 100 languages.

As part of our efforts to improve access to social and health-related support services, United Way is proud to be a founding partner of 211 in Canada. Currently, 211 is available to 60% (over 20 million) of Canadian residents in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Québec, and Nova Scotia.

To contact 211, dial 2-1-1 from any phone or visit


Welcome Home Kits

Welcome Home Kits provide basic household supplies to individuals and families transitioning from shelters to permanent housing. Consisting of dishes, utensils, cups, pots, pans, soap, and other kitchen and bathroom supplies, these kits enable recipients to start their new lives with the materials required to cook and serve meals and to attend to personal hygiene. As a result, recipients are able to focus their limited funds on essentials like rent and food.

“Everything in the kit I needed and used. I had nothing when I moved – not even a knife and a fork. It was perfect. Thank you.”

- Recipient

United Way works with individuals, groups, organizations, and partners to collect new and gently used household items, to assemble the items into useful kits, and to distribute the kits to local agencies to provide to their clients. Since the program was established, over 2,800 kits have been distributed across Niagara to individuals and families in need.

“People staying in shelters are always struggling to try to make their limited budget fit and moving to a new place brings lots of unexpected expenses. For some clients, buying items like dishes, cleaning supplies, or even cutlery becomes almost impossible and they need to decide between being able to have some food in their cupboards or buy utensils. Some of the clients that have been able to benefit from the project had expressed that they had never had brand new dishes or pots in their entire life and the kits mean so much for them.”

- Staff, Agency Partner


Brushed Aside: Dental Care Access

The Brushed Aside: Dental Care Access program provides low-income adults and seniors with access to dental treatment. As the most common unmet needs in Niagara, inaccessible dental treatment is a barrier to securing employment, attending school, eating nutritiously, and engaging in social activities. In response to this gap in service, United Way works with groups, organizations, and partners to provide interest-free loans to individuals to pay for dental treatment with repayment plans tailored to ability to pay.

Since Brushed Aside was established, over 85 clients have received much needed dental treatment and have reported:

  • Reduced dental pain and discomfort,
  • Increased self-esteem,
  • Increased social interactions including laughing and smiling, and
  • Fewer visits to hospitals and doctors’ offices for dental issues.
“I live pay cheque to pay cheque and there is no extra money for major dental expenses. It hurt to eat, talk, and even smile. I was able to get my teeth fixed and I couldn’t be happier with the results. I feel like I can move on from this difficult time in my life."

- Client

To access Brushed Aside, contact our agency partners: 

  • Community Care of St.Catharines and Thorold 
  • Start Me Up Niagara
  • YWCA Niagara Region
  • Bethlehem Housing and Support Services
  • The RAFT
  • The Hope Centre
  • Bridges Community Health Centre (Fort Erie)
  • Bridges Community Health Centre (Port Colborne)
  • Project SHARE
  • Community Care of West Niagara 

“Thank you. It feels good to smile. I can finally laugh.”

- Client

Funded in part by Niagara Region through the Niagara Prosperity Initiative.

To learn more about poverty in Niagara, visit:


Backpacks for Kids

Backpacks for Kids provides new backpacks filled with school supplies to children and youth from low-income families. Distributed through schools and community agencies, these backpacks provide kids and teens the opportunity to share the common experience of their peers - one of excitement for the new school year - while alleviating the financial burden for families.

“Backpacks for Kids is more than merely giving a child a bag of school supplies. It’s a bag packed with compassion, hope, and a world of possibilities.”


Coordinated by United Way, Backpacks for Kids brings together a number of individuals, groups, organizations, and partners. Together, we have distributed over 27,000 backpacks across Niagara since 2002.

“Thanks to Backpacks for Kids, I was able to give my daughter everything she needs for school. It was a huge relief for me and family. I don’t know what I would’ve done without you guys.”

- Parent of recipient


After School Matters

After School Matters is a network of free after-school programs delivering quality educational, recreational, and leisure activities. As drop-in programs, preteen and teens gain access to homework help, physical activity, nutritious snacks, and enrichment programs such as cooking, music, and science. Located in the stressed neighbourhoods of Manchester, Old Pine Trail, and Rykert in St. Catharines as well as in Thorold, these programs mitigate the negative effects of low-income for over 500 children and youth every year.

In spite of the fact that children and youth from low-income families are less likely to graduate high school, less likely to pursue post-secondary education, and more likely to live in poverty as adults, After School Matters is creating a measurable impact. 


Since attending:

  • 80% of participants report doing better in school;
  • 85% are more physically active;
  • 78% eat healthy foods more often; and
  • 95% feel better about their future.
"Forming friendships is very easy here, meeting new people is lots of fun and it’s good to meet new people. School is becoming easier because it is easier to understand more things. My mom works until 4 pm so if I went home straight after school then no one will be home but me and my sister. If I come to TASP then I can hang out with my friends and do fun activities."

- Program participant

To learn more:

“This program is a wonderful program that helped my son with socialization. He used to be a child who wanted to be by himself, now he is more outgoing. I also appreciate that a member from the after school program helped my son improve in his reading. This program has had a positive effect in my children’s lives. I want to thank everybody that is involved in making this program possible.

- Parent of participant

Sponsors & In-Kind Gifts

Platinum ($100,000+)

  • Anonymous (1)

Silver ($5,000 - $24,999)

  • David & Joanne Jones
  • Ed & Barb Werner
  • John Deere Foundation of Canada
  • Kiwanis Club of St. Catharines
  • Michele Darling & Michael Eagen
  • Walker Industries Holdings Limited

Bronze ($1,000 - $4,999)

  • Beth & Rico Natale
  • Dunlop Seniors Recreation Club

In-Kind Gifts

  • CFUW St. Catharines - Gift of Reading Program
  • District School Board of Niagara
  • J.J. Kapps
  • Niagara Catholic District School Board
  • Niagara Regional Housing
  • Parkway Lanes
  • Ridley College

For more information, contact Jenna Kirkwood at or (905) 688-5050 x 115.