Dressed for the occasion (11 photos)Thursday, October 10, 2013 by: Darren Taylor
Students enrolled in the Public Relations and Event Management (PEM) Program at Sault College enjoyed some practical hands-on training at the postsecondary institution's Essar Hall Thursday, in partnership with the United Way Sault Ste. Marie and District.
Students were dressed in red and white, in keeping with the United Way's first annual Red and White Day.
The event was designed to raise awareness (and funds) for the agency's 2013 campaign, drawing attention to the many helpful community services the agency supports to help those in need.
The event included an information table manned by friendly, helpful students, a printable photo booth (with a prize for the best group photo), treats prepared and provided by Sault College's Culinary and Hospitality Program, and live entertainment provided by the Sault College Cougars Cheerleading squad.
Testimonials were read out by PEM students, written by people who have benefitted from United Way-supported programs.
Katrina Holkko (pictured) read out her own testimonial.
Holkko is already a graduate of Sault College and Algoma University programs, now furthering her education in Sault College's PEM program.
Holkko shared her story with SooToday.com.
"When I was a teenager I was homeless in Toronto and I used a lot of United Way services, and one in particular was a United Way-funded program called Youth Link Inner City, a drop-in centre, and this is the one service I went to every day."
Holkko was hired by the centre.
"For six months I got to be a peer support worker with that program, able to get an apartment, and help others who were going through the same thing."
"It was a fantastic program."
When Holkko tired of paying high rent in Toronto, she returned to Sault Ste. Marie, where she again received much-needed help from a United Way-funded program.
Two of her teeth at the side of her mouth were damaged in an accident.
With her dentist reluctant to establish a repayment schedule for the necessary dental work (a $1500 job), she discovered the United Way offered a program called Community Assistance Trust.
"This program funds any shortfalling you have when you're in a low income bracket," Holkko said.
"I called them up and answered a few questions about my income and my expenses, they called my dentist, and all my dental work was paid for."
"So now my teeth are fantastic and the pain is gone. Before that, it was hard to look for work, to do anything."
"Thankfully in the Sault, the Community Assistance Trust was there for me, but a lot of people don't know about it," Holkko told us, saying she heard about the program through a friend who had also received help through the United Way with her heating bill during a particularly harsh winter.
Many people are simply not aware of the range of services the United Way supports and therefore suffer needlessly, she said.
Caitlyn Nelson and J.D. Pearce, both of the PEM program, were also on hand for Thursday's event.
Nelson said: "As PEM students we're extremely happy to be working with the United Way. It's just amazing to be a part of it."
Pearce said Red and White Day was a good way for all students to learn the importance of giving back to the community as they learn about their chosen profession at Sault College.