Dick Cavaye has been an enthusiastic supporter of the United Way for most of his life, and he’s got the red feather to prove it.
It was about 10 years ago that the United Way started recognizing contributors who have offered their continuous support for 25 years or more by titling them ‘Red Feather Friends,’ complete with a red feather lapel pin. The title pays homage to the early days of the organization when they were known as the Red Feather Campaign.
Cavaye, 78, started donating through a payroll deduction in 1970 when he was first exposed to the United Way through his company, and hasn’t looked back since.
“It’s local giving, with local results,” he said of why he’s so strongly supported the United Way all these years. “Everything given in Greater Victoria stays in Greater Victoria, and helps in Greater Victoria.”
It’s a way to know where donations are going, he said.
“With a lot of campaigns, they’re national, and you don’t always know what happened to the dollars you donated.”
The United Way establishes between 90 to 100 partnerships each year with local organizations like the Cool Aid Society, Project Literacy and Our Place, and each partnership is re-evaluated each year, said Cavaye.
“It’s a way to check up to make sure that what was said would be done, is being done.”
Cavaye has lived in Oak Bay for 40 years this July, and been involved with the Victoria United Way for nearly three decades. He served as campaign chair in ‘89, and chaired the board for several years in the late ‘90s.
These days he’s involved with the Leaders’ Committee in looking after all the donors that aren’t attached to a business.
Last year, the committee was able to raise approximately $750,000 from what Cavaye called their “orphan supporters,” but despite this success, he said they need an influx of younger donors to support their current base of retirees.
Cavaye is an example of what younger donors can accomplish. In the late ‘50s at UBC, he participated in what he called a “one day blitz” of fundraising for the United Way, taking the donation cans from classroom to classroom. He and fellow students were able to raise $2,500, equivalent to more than $20,000 today.
Nowadays, retired and without the option of an easy payroll deduction, Cavaye set up an automatic donation on a credit card, continuing his monthly commitment to the organization. Regular donations are easier for them to manage, he said.
“It helps to even out the ebbs and flows.”
It’s clear the long-time Oak Bay local plans to continue his support of the United Way, and makes the point that anyone can benefit from the organization.
Even his parents took advantage, he said. When they got to a certain age and weren’t as able to cook, his mother signed up for Meals on Wheels.
“Everyone knows someone with something,” he said.
To further commend his many years of service, Cavaye was presented with an honorary lifetime membership in 2011 “For exemplified vision, talent and dedication to United Way.”
He downplayed the accolades, emphasizing instead the good that the organization does.
“It’s really about giving back, locally.”
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