Hand in Hand: Building and Helping Communities

Roads, houses and schools make up the physical infrastructure of our neighborhoods. But equally important is the social infrastructure that helps people connect to their community and their neighbors. This is something that the GTA’s building industry understands and supports.

In June 2013, the 31st annual Building Industry Luncheon (BIL) raised $1.2 million in support of United Way York Region. Over 1,200 builders and developers from the GTA gathered at Le Parc Banquet Hall in Thornhill to raise a record $775,000 — a 10 per cent increase over last year’s total. In  addition, two anonymous donors pledged $450,000 to celebrate BIL founder Alfredo DeGasperis, who passed away earlier this year. In its 31-year history, the event has raised over $8 million for local communities.

United Way York Region CEO Daniele Zanotti recalled DeGasperis’s enthusiasm in putting together the event year after year. “He would say, ‘We’re going to bring a few more guests, raise a little more money, so we can help more people — and get everyone the hell out by 2 o’clock so you can all go back to work.’” Dubbed “the premiere networking event for the building industry,” this year’s BIL saw a new generation of philanthropic leaders committed to continue DeGasperis’s legacy of giving back to local communities. This year’s chairs were  Jim V. DeGasperis, president  and CEO, Condrain Group; Marc A. Muzzo, president, Pemberton Group; along with returning chair, Bill Fisch, chairman and CEO, the Regional Municipality of York. “What an honour for Marc and I to continue the partnership with United Way that our fathers started some three decades ago,” said Jim  V. DeGasperis. “I think it’s a testament to our industry’s heart and soul to build strong communities for all,” he added.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was the event’s keynote speaker. In her speech, she recognized the building industry’s civic-mindedness and thanked them for contributing to “the kind of communities we want to build.” “The people in this room build our roads, homes and schools, but they are also taking care of their friends and neighbours by partnering with United Way, and this makes me so proud,” said Wynne. “In a region that is growing so fast, services are running to keep pace. The extra support should be celebrated. Bravo.” Building strong communities is one of United Way York Region’s key priorities. Last year, thanks to the generosity of donors, United Way helped 28,000 children and youth through after-school, counselling and mental health programs; 12,000 people living in poverty access jobs and housing; and more than 40,000 people in their neighbourhoods — seniors maintain their independence, newcomers receive settlement services, and individuals with mental health issues and disabilities receive support. United Way York Region serves nine municipalities: Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Georgina, King, Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Whitchurch-Stouffville. In addition to its traditional role of supporting agencies to meet urgent needs, United Way is working to tackle the root causes of social issues. To help strengthen York Region’s quality of life, United Way is uniting people and resources on three priorities: helping kids be all they can be, moving people from poverty to possibility and building strong neighbourhoods.

For more information, please visit york.unitedway.ca or follow @unitedwayyork on Twitter.

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