Partnerships build community

Partnerships build community

In 2017, Wendat Community Programs wanted to help its community better understand the programs they had to offer, but – like many community-based charities – lacked the resources necessary to bring in a professional marketing team to get the job done.

Luckily, Wendat’s Executive Assistant Linda Belcourt had heard about the partnership between United Way Simcoe Muskoka and Georgian College’s Graphic Design Program. The collaborative was intended to fill that exact gap in the community – and to provide the college’s design students with an opportunity to learn valuable project management skills.

Not sure where to start, Linda said, “we asked for the world, and she delivered.”

Now a graduate of the program, Jasmine Lourenco was then the third-year student assigned to the Wendat project. Choosing to work through the college strike to deliver much more than the program required of her, Jasmine took the team through the process of developing a new logo and new brand messaging. She also provided templates and user-friendly graphics that left them set up for future success.

“It was fabulous,” Linda added. “I was blown away by this student.”


Jasmine particularly enjoyed the challenge of researching and incorporating design elements that met the requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which aims to make the province work for all residents.

For her classmate Mat Hodder, who worked with the Rotary Club of Collingwood on a marketing concept and fundraising materials in support of a new community hub initiative, the opportunity to give back aligned with his values-based career approach.

“It’s a great opportunity to work with nonprofits, mainly because it adds a sense of purpose to our work,” he explains. “I believe in the ‘Do Good’ pledge.”

Pam Hillier, Executive Director of Collingwood’s Community Connection and a Rotary Club volunteer working directly with Hodder, pronounced him “wonderful” and appreciates the lasting impact he made on the project.

“What impressed me and James (Club President James Saunders) was the professionalism. He was genuinely keen to understand,” she said. “I hope to have him at the launch (in 2019).”

At the other side of the county, student Susie Reaman worked with Laurie Herd (of Be Herd Communications) on a 25th Anniversary celebration for Green Haven Shelter for Women in Orillia. The project’s timeline was already ambitious to accommodate the gala’s event date, but threatened to go off the rails with the college strike.

“She said, ‘I’m not going to leave you high and dry,” Laurie said of Susie’s commitment to the project. They communicated via email and phone to develop a series of pieces for the event itself and for a new education and fundraising program that was launched at the gala. “It all got done on time. It was really, really good – I can’t say enough about Susie!”

“It was interesting to see her ideas and my ideas, and how they came together,” said Susie afterward. “It was great. They were open and welcoming and encouraging.”


After three years, the program will return in the fall of 2018 for the new crop of senior students, says graphic design professor George Mashinter, who has overseen and championed the program since UWSM approached his department with the idea.

“It’s offered in the fall semester as part of the Professional Practices 2 course – before their third-year placement,” he explains. “The real value is that students get to have real-world experience working with clients. It’s critical in the whole graphic design process.

“There has been excellent feedback from students. They find it very valuable because they know that’s what to expect when they get out there.”

The program has helped 77 local nonprofits to date, with a total of 64 students providing about $75,000 worth of pro bono services.

“Some are surprised at the scope of the questions being asked,” George says about feedback from nonprofit partners. “They are really grateful for the time and energy students put into the projects.”


George encourages his students to embrace David Berman’s “Do Good Design” concept and to “really think about the ethics of their designs.” In that spirit, the program will continue to work exclusively with nonprofit clients in the coming year. There is limited space, however, and he is booking now for fall projects.

Charities and nonprofits across Simcoe Muskoka interested in learning more about the program can get additional information by clicking here, and then connect with George directly by email or phone (705-728-1968, extension 4165).

United Way Simcoe Muskoka participates in the program by promoting the program to community partners and agencies in an effort to build capacity for local resources to serve regional residents. To learn more about the work UWSM does in local communities, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

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