a lit lantern rests on a white surface with dots of light speckled on the wall behind

Vision 2020: a term to express visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision). In 2019 our staff team thought the theme of ‘2020’ would be a fun one for the coming year. Our staff meeting in January 2020 held out all kinds of possibilities, including fun activities as we finalized our plans for the year. Our over-arching theme was the challenge: how do we reach 300 new family members each year? Steps for Life was ready to launch in another week. Little did we know the storm that was about to challenge us.

The wind swung our sails in the middle of March, but didn’t stop us or you from ensuring Steps for Life happened in your community. You know the value of that event in providing support for family members, and equally in spreading the message of workplace injury awareness. And you did that. You took to social media and shared your why and your way. The event was a success. Yes, our income from that fundraiser was significantly impacted, but you surpassed in other ways. Sponsors, partners and the community participated.

Also cancelled were our other avenues for fundraising and spreading the prevention message. You couldn’t hold in-person events, so no health and safety training or conferences to bring in a family member spokesperson sharing their story. There were no fundraising events as you couldn’t hold your golf and ball tournaments, barbeques, etc. Your family life had changed, your work-life likely changed, our environment changed from what we knew. What would the year bring?

I reflect back to 2003 when a small group of family members and partners saw the need for family members to have support and be a voice for the prevention message. We had zero funds. The WSIB then provided our first grant. Soon community partners across Canada embraced the mission and vision of Threads of Life. We started small and hired and grew within our means – both human and financially. Several years in the past decade, we were fortunate to receive unexpected donations near the year-end and we established a reserve fund – funds we tucked away for a rainy day. Actually, most of our financial donations are hoped for, but of course never a for-sure thing. That is the way it is with charities.

The pandemic has caused many charities to close their doors forever, but at this point Threads of Life continues to be on a sound financial footing, because of the commitment of our funders and the foresight of our board of directors. In 2020 some of our major expenses have been curtailed, including, sadly, the in-person family forums which were not able to happen. We have been able to make use of the government’s COVID-19 financial assistance programs. Those, along with our committed sponsors and partners with multi-year grant agreements, your donations and support for Threads of Life have all helped.

Looking ahead, we are well aware that some of our partners and sponsors will have financial challenges due to the pandemic, while others are doing well. At this time, we are anticipating a budget deficit in 2021. We will likely be pulling from our rainy day funds so that we can continue to retain our staff and deliver all of our programs. While we are fortunate to have that reserve fund to draw on, we can’t be sure what the next months and years will bring. We will count on each of you.

Each of our board and staff meetings opens with a reflection on our mission and vision. It is an important step for us. It keeps us grounded. Each meeting we also talk about our goal of reaching 300 new family members each year. You can help with this. You can have some brochures on hand and pass them around. Everyone has someone in their network who has been affected by a workplace life-altering injury or illness, or knows of a family where a worker has died.

Let us look forward to a future where volunteer speakers will be back in person at your workplace and at schools sharing the prevention message. Once again, you will be able to host your workplace fundraisers and events to bring employees together and build their commitment to health and safety. In so many ways, each of these events will help new family members to find a listening ear, care and comfort from Threads of Life. They too will be part of the important vision to bring all workers home safely.

Shirley Hickman