“You can’t enjoy the fruits of a tree without first planting the seed and nurturing it’s growth.” A common phrase and one that was first sowed into our vocabulary more than a decade ago by our dear friend, Anita Robertson.

For those who did not have the pleasure of knowing her, she was as good as they come. Anita believed in United Way’s mission with all of her heart, and made it her goal to learn as much as she could about the challenges facing vulnerable people in our communities and what she could do to help.

Anita was an integral part of the United Way family. Her volunteer journey with United Way began when she served alongside her husband Joe as the 2011 Leadership Co-Chairs, helping to raise vital funds for the annual campaign. Anita would go on to serve as the 2015 Campaign Chair, a role she committed to completely, at times putting in full time hours to ensure a successful campaign. She would continue her commitment to United Way by serving as a Board Member for United Way of St. Catharines & District from 2016 to 2018, and on the Transition Committee that led to the amalgamation of the three area United Ways, forming United Way Niagara. This steadfast commitment earned Anita the 2017 Volunteer of the Year Award.

Awards Night 2017

Anita, with Frances Hallworth (CEO) and Peter W. Partridge (Past Board Chair) receiving 2017 Volunteer of the Year Award.

Robertson's Reception 2015

Anita and Joe at a United Way event they hosted at their home in 2015.

To the United Way team, Anita was more than a donor and volunteer, she became a true friend and colleague. It was not uncommon for Anita to stop by the office with treats for staff, call to check in on her way to the cottage, send a “job well done” email, or a handwritten card in times of happiness or sorrow. She was always thinking of others and was deeply focused on understanding the needs of the community and hearing stories first-hand of those in community who needed our help. She had a way with people, always making everyone feel comfortable in her presence. She strongly believed that by showing and sharing these stories, people would become more engaged in their community and support of United Way would follow. Beyond her friendship, Anita’s devotion to our cause was a true gift. The countless hours she spent working to improve lives has no doubt made an immense impact in the Niagara community.

Sadly, five years ago, our United Way family, and the Niagara community as a whole, was forever changed with the news that Anita, Joe and their daughter Laura, had died in a tragic accident.

In the wake of Anita’s death, the staff and board of United Way decided that one of the ways we would honour Anita’s memory was to establish The Anita Robertson Legacy Award. This memorial award is presented annually to an individual or individuals that embody Anita’s kind heart and community spirit.

Anita, Campaign Chair, with Sean Simpson (Past Board Chair) and Frances Hallworth, revealing 2015 Campaign achievement. Photo by Denis Cahill.

Recipients of The Anita Robertson Legacy Award:

2018: Heidi Burgess & Karen MacKay

2019: Sean Simpson

2020: Domenic & Patrizia Trapasso

2021: The Late Bill Heelis

2022: Carol & Mike Clarke

United Way staff at a reception hosted by Anita and Joe at their home in Niagara-on-the-Lake in 2015. Photo by Denis Cahill.

Our team was not alone in their desire to commemorate this remarkable woman. For those who knew Anita, it should come as no surprise that she had an army of friends who wanted to honour her legacy too. It was through friendship and love that The Anita Project was born. The project bring together friends of Anita to fundraise for and pack Hygiene Kits and Welcome Home Kits which are distributed to our partners across Niagara. The idea came from a “packing party” where Anita introduced friends to these initiatives several years ago. When you are living in poverty, acquiring everyday essentials can be a challenge. Hygiene products are often overlooked as donations to shelters and food banks. United Way has responded to this need in the community by providing people living in poverty or those at crisis shelters with hygiene products at no cost. Anita played an instrumental role in launching this initiative and it is fitting that the project lives on through her friends.

The women behind The Anita Project have worked diligently to raise more than $90,000 since 2018, providing more than 5,000 hygiene kits and 470 Welcome Home Kits to people and families in need. All of these kits are distributed through United Way agency partners dealing directly with people experiencing poverty and homelessness – a cause near and dear to Anita. In total, 65 agencies across Niagara have received kits. A meaningful and impactful tribute to Anita and the Robertson family.

Anita, with daughter Laura, at a United Way event in 2017.

In loving memory of Anita Elizabeth Robertson
1960 – 2018