how we help

Our Special Initiatives


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 550 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

For more information, contact Krista Butters at  or (905) 688-5050 x 2115.


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 42,500 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

To find out how you or your organization can help, email


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 in 2012, over 3,500 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


211 - INCommunities

What is INCommumnities?

  • INCommumnities is an award-winning telephone help line and website that serves as a gateway to community, social, non-clinical health, and government services.
  • INCommumnities helps people navigate the complex network of human services quickly, easily, and for free.
  • INCommumnities 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

Ask us about:

  • Health services & supports
  • Financial & social assistance
  • Housing & utility help
  • Children & youth services
  • Food assistance & meal programs
  • Seniors services & home care
  • Government program
  • Parenting & family programs
  • Disability support programs
  • Newcomer services
  • Volunteers organizations
  • And much more!

When you don't know where to turn, turn to 211


Niagara Prosperity Initiative

The Niagara Prosperity Initiative (NPI) began in 2008, when Niagara Regional Council approved $1.5 million in yearly investments to address poverty in Niagara.

The Niagara Prosperity Initiative’s goals are to:

  • Guide and direct investments on initiatives to alleviate poverty in neighbourhoods across Niagara
  • Advocate for change that will reduce and prevent poverty in the community
  • Develop and enhance collaborative relationships between stakeholders
  • Engage people living in poverty in meaningful ways to ensure that investments reflect need

As the Secretariat, United Way Niagara provides operational management of the Niagara Prosperity Initiative projects by conducting a Niagara-wide Request for Proposal (RFP), administering contracts and monitoring project delivery. We also provide technology and communication supports and handle the logistical and administrative needs of the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network to help this community initiative run smoothly.

Request for Proposals


If you would like more information about the Niagara Prosperity Initiative or the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network, please contact:

Natalie Chaumont
Program Manager, Niagara Prosperity Initiative - 905.688.5050 ext 2124 |

NPI Projects

NPI Resources

NPI Evaluation 


Hygiene Kits


When people think of donating items, every day essentials like personal hygiene items don’t always come to mind. These items are challenging to access and expensive for people experiencing financial insecurity. United Way Niagara has responded to this community by providing Hygiene Kits for people who may be experiencing homelessness, living in shelters, living in poverty or in precarious situations.


  • shampoo
  • conditioner
  • comb
  • deodorant
  • floss
  • bar of soap
  • toothpaste
  • toothbrush
  • wash cloth

By supporting individuals with these basic needs we are providing a sense of dignity to those who otherwise may not have access to these every day items. When a person is able to care for their own hygiene, they are then able to focus on other important needs such as finding a home, employment and a sense of community.  United Way has provided more than 2,600 hygiene kits to individuals in need in 2018.  Thank you for your support! 

For more information, contact Krista Butters at 905.688.5050 x 2115 or email


Niagara Food Security Network

United Way’s community impact strategy focuses on increasing food security for people across Niagara.

United Way Niagara is currently investing over $500,000 in funding for food-related programs and services. Over a third of our 103 funded programs either directly or indirectly, result in food-related programming or access for people in need.

To address increasing challenges faced by organizations and community-led initiatives across Niagara, United Way hosted a community consultation in January 2019. The Niagara Food Forum consultation brought together food-related service providers to engage in dialogue, increase knowledge and understanding, drive collaboration, leverage resources, identify challenges, barriers and opportunities, and recommend action steps to improve food security for all residents in Niagara.

United Way is proud to be a backbone support for the Niagara Food Security Network.

The Niagara Food Security Network is a collection of community groups, non-profit agencies, charitable organizations, faith groups and others collaboratively working to address food-related needs and challenges across Niagara. The purpose of the Niagara Food Security Network is to strengthen food security for all residents in Niagara. We will achieve this by strategically working on the key recommendations and next steps identified from the Niagara Food Forum and other local work conducted by our community partners.

The Niagara Food Security Network membership is open to all of Niagara’s residents, community groups, networks, non-profit agencies, charitable organizations, faith groups, individuals with lived experience, political representatives and others working to address food security. Members may include representatives from the many food systems in Niagara (Niagara Connects, Food Systems in Niagara Map 2016) such as, but not limited to:

  • Environment
  • Growing and Harvesting
  • Processing and Packaging
  • Distribution and Storage
  • Access
  • Agritourism
  • Preparing and Eating
  • Waste and Disposal

Membership is also open to any provincial, federal, regional or other agencies, networks, etc. that may play a role in achieving food security in Niagara. To join the network or learn more about the role you play in addressing food security in Niagara, please contact Tamara Coleman-Lawrie at

The Niagara Food Security Network and members are working on several priority food-related areas:

  • Asset Inventory and Asset Based Community Development
  • Best Practices and Community Hubs Exploration and Research
  • Data Mining, Knowledge Sharing and Evaluation
  • Farmers Partnership Project Exploration
  • Food-related Social Enterprise Development
  • Funding Opportunities
  • Lived Experience Engagement
  • Logistics, Storage, Warehousing and Transportation
  • Maximizing Food Use, Food Rescue, Bulk Purchasing, Food Transformation and Waste
  • Public Education
  • Utilizing Community Kitchens
  • Volunteerism
  • Youth-Led Initiatives Exploration

To join a Niagara Food Security Network Sub-Committee, please contact Tamara Coleman-Lawrie at


Click here to download the 2019 Niagara Food Forum Community Report.

Niagara Food Assets Map:

The Food Assets Map features 10 layers of food-related community assets:

Click here to view the Niagara Food Assets Map.

The Niagara Food Assets Map will continually be improved and updated with the help of community members and partners. If you would like to add an asset to the Niagara Food Assets Map, please contact Tamara Coleman-Lawrie at

Click here to view the Community Gardens Map (hosted by the Niagara Community Garden Network)


Period Promise

Periods might be tough to talk about sometimes, but they are a fact of life. Sadly, too many people can’t afford them. You can change that.

Period products are a basic necessity. If you are living in poverty or are vulnerable in other ways, access to tampons, pads or cups can be challenging. The Period Promise initiative by United Way mobilizes citizens to be a part of the solution. During a three week campaign running from March 3 to 21, 2020, United Way will organize a community wide product drive. All donations will be given to local agencies and service providers across the region. The initiative aims to reduce vulnerability and isolation caused by period poverty.

Period Promise is more than a product drive. United Way is advocating for those affected by period poverty by asking business and facility owners to sign the Period Promise Policy and commit to providing free period products to anyone accessing their facilities. For more information, please visit the website

Collection Tool Kit:



COVID-19 Emergency Response Efforts

We are seeing a surge in need for basic necessities. In response to the outbreak of COVID-19, United Way Niagara has created the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

This fund will support the work of our frontline partner agencies that are at the forefront of this issue and are collectively striving to ensure our most vulnerable citizens are safe and healthy.

This is a difficult time for everyone, and we know those who are already marginalized in our community will be disproportionately impacted. If you are able to support our emergency efforts, please give what you can.

The funds raised will stay here in Niagara and will provide direct financial support to the agencies that require it most during this time. We anticipate the Emergency Response Fund will help with essential services such as emergency shelter and food and other needs as they emerge.

United Way is working with community leaders and agencies to ensure that we are providing support where it is critically needed. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at 905-688-5050 or email Frances Hallworth.

IFYOU NEED SUPPORT: Please call 2-1-1 or search the online database to find the services you need.

These are uncertain times. But the research is clear. The stronger the sense of connection the more resilient the community. And we are resilient. We are a community that cares about each other. In times like these, we look out for others. While you take care of yourself, take a moment for someone else who may need that connection. Because we always are, and always will be, stronger together.

Now more than ever, your community needs you. If you can, please GIVE NOW