“From my head to my heart”

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“From my head to my heart”
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Lisa Zarzeczny

Lisa Zarzeczny

Lisa Zarzeczny is the Manager, Marketing & Communications at United Way Oakville. She is a graduate of Sheridan College.

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For Terry Smith and Francine Landry, volunteering with and supporting United Way Oakville wasn’t the result of a special ‘aha’ moment. That part came later. Instead, their involvement came from the desire to get involved with a non-profit organization that provided a network of support for the whole community.

Terry and Francine have lived in Oakville for 32 years and are no strangers to community service. Fuelled by a passion for preserving local culture, they began their community involvement by volunteering with Oakville’s Heritage Committee. They haven’t slowed down since.

Giving back quickly became a way of life for their family. “You notice a need and then you try to help fill it,” Francine humbly remarks, “I know lots of people who give back; we’re not special in any way.”

“You’re only in the world a short while,” Terry reflects, “you want to do something useful; you want to do something that impacts where you live.”

Strengthening their ties to both the community and the non-profit sector was the fact that their youngest son, Scott, is autistic.

For years, Terry and Francine dedicated their lives to autism-related causes, even starting their own non-profit organization, SOAAR. When Terry volunteered to sit on United Way Oakville’s Campaign Cabinet in 2012, he wanted to extend his efforts beyond the cause that had been the focus of their lives for many years and help build a strong community foundation. “I didn’t even think of the fact that we ourselves had used United Way,” Terry reflects as he lists the United Way funded agencies his family has been involved with: Oakville Parent Child Centre, HIPPY and Community Living Oakville.


“My involvement started with, ‘I’d like to do more,’ and then I realized that United Way Oakville has affected us too.”

A senior volunteer with United Way for three years, Terry is a model of commitment and strength within the community. “When you see what United Way is doing, it makes you committed to wanting to raise the money,” he states. For both him and Francine, contributing to an organization that has a local impact is paramount. “You’re only in the world a short while,” Terry reflects, “you want to do something useful; you want to do something that impacts where you live.” Similarly, Francine is passionate about helping those near. “When you work in the community,” she says, “you realize the people you are helping are no different than you and I. That could be me.”

There’s no question that the biggest influence for these two is having an autistic son. “You see that so many people want to help,” comments Francine, “and really, that’s the United Way. It’s a whole community coming together. A need comes up and we do something.” For Terry and Francine, it’s really as simple as that.

When reflecting on the past three years of involvement with United Way Terry admits, “it’s almost like my investment in United Way started from my head and traveled to my heart.” While it began as a way to have a broader community impact, it grew to a passion for supporting Oakville residents and neighbours. Now, for both him and Francine, their message is clear:

“if you want to do something useful and important, give to United Way. You’re actually going to touch a lot of people.”

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