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Abrigo’s Annual United Way Campaign and Yard Sale

An Ongoing Tradition of Raising Funds and Strengthening Bonds

By: Gerald Luciano, Manager, Fundraising and Communications | October 6, 2023

As the late afternoon sun aligns itself precisely down a side-street, it intersects straight into the front windows of the Abrigo Centre. Now nestled comfortably for more than a decade on a strip of Dufferin St., a gaggle of casual bargain hunters, skilled thrifters and expats looking to send a care package back home mill around multiple tables loaded with shirts, pants, jackets and sweaters.

As the sun bathes them in a golden glow, each waits patiently to reach a pile or rack of clothes. Will the next stack hold the gold nugget they’ve been searching to find?

Like a family holiday tradition, Abrigo’s annual United Way Yard Sale is a rite of passage for the Corso Italia neighbourhood heading into the fall and unwanted colder temperatures. This finely tuned ritual is expertly executed by a small but dedicated group of Abrigo staff members and volunteers (photo). Most importantly, every penny raised from the sale contributes to Abrigo’s annual internal staff campaign to support the United Way Greater Toronto (UWGT).

Abrigo has had a thriving relationship with the United Way Greater Toronto for the last 30 years. Through good times and bad, that bond has never been broken. Abrigo was recently renewed for a second five-year term as an Anchor Agency of the UWGT. The United Way is Abrigo’s largest non-government funder, providing just over $250,000 annually to our Violence Against Women, Seniors, Youth Outreach, and Community Development and Integration programs.

Rosane Fernandes has served as Abrigo’s Receptionist and administrative dynamo for 13 years, with the last five serving as Chair of its United Way Campaign committee. She understands the importance and dynamics of a strong relationship between the two organizations.

“The great success we’ve have over the years raising funds for the United Way demonstrates the dedication and commitment the Abrigo team has to our partnership,” says Ms. Fernandes. “It makes me feel proud to lead such a successful annual initiative and give back to an organization that gives so much to us.”

The overall fundraising goal for Abrigo’s 2023 campaign has now reached $8,000, a new record. This comes after a multi-year string of exceeding annual goals, even across the challenging years of the pandemic.

This winning streak brings a sense of gratification to Abrigo’s Executive Director Ed Graça. “I’m extremely proud of the work our United Way fundraising committee does each year. In addition to facing an unprecedented client workload and the ongoing remnants of three challenging years, our staff continues to go above and beyond to ensure our collective group total surpasses each year’s United Way goal.”


With staff members, family members, volunteers and clients donating a huge treasure trove of items over a three-month period prior to the event, this year it ran for a full seven days, the longest time period ever. “It takes about one week to sort through and categorize all the items,” says Ms. Fernandes. “Then, we typically have 10 volunteers help out at the sale and usually a couple students as well!”

The Yard Sale makes up about 35 per cent of Abrigo’s total United Way campaign gift, with approximately 60 per cent coming from pledged employee gifts via payroll deduction or a one-time gift.

Although all the racks in front of Abrigo are gone and the sun has now set on this year’s United Way Yard Sale, almost $2,400 was raised, keeping Abrigo on track to hit its total 2023 goal. Ms. Fernandes acknowledges that, “There’s more work to do through the fall, but staff here are always very supportive of the campaign and I have every confidence that we’ll be successful once again!”






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Gerald Luciano

Gerald Luciano has been the Abrigo Centre’s Manager of Fundraising and Communications for eight years. He has an extensive background in both specialties in the healthcare and social service sectors.

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