After 25 years with the organization, Linda Yule is set to retire as executive director of the United Way North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)

United Way executive director from Vernon heads into retirement

Linda Yule saying goodbye after 25 years with North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap organization

One in three people are helped out by the United Way North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap,

Linda Yule didn’t realize she was one until the night she was stuffing envelopes with fellow volunteers Monica Martens and Jacqui Jakeman.

Yule, who retires March 29 as executive director of UWNOCS, had been at a midlife fork in the road when her husband passed away suddenly. As she was taking a break “figuring out what to be when she grew up,” a friend talked Yule into volunteering for United Way.

“Jacqui and Monica, we were stuffing envelopes talking about how one in three people are touched by United Way, and then I realized it had been me that was one,” said Yule. “Hospice was one of our agencies and they helped me get through when my husband died. So I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the help and how United Way touches people.”

A former office worker for an architect firm for 10 years, and working for construction and engineering companies before that, Yule started with United Way as a volunteer doing presentations in 1994, because then-executive director Ken Buchanan was not a fan of public speaking.

Yule parlayed that into contract work with the organization and then, after Jan Hoggarth, who replaced Buchanan, retired, the United Way’s board offered Yule the chance “to have an extra day of the week to be executive director.”

And she never looked back.

“Some days, it feels like I’ve been here forever, some days it feels like 25 years went by and I don’t know where the time went,” said Yule, who confessed she didn’t really know anything about United Way when she joined.

RELATED: Vernon United Way community giving update

United Way North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap has been helping the region since 1961 partnering with many community agencies “to improve lives and build community by engaging individuals and mobilizing collective action,” focusing on three areas:

* From poverty to possibility;

* All that kids can be;

* Strong communities.

“Once you meet the community partners that are delivering the services, and once you realize United Way is out there raising awareness and funds for them, and it’s something they can count on, I began to get it,” said Yule. “I can see how important it was to these groups, to the community to be able to have a good solid presence and facilitate other things within the community.”

The area this United Way branch services, from Golden to Sorrento, Falkland to Nakusp, is three times the size of the Central Okanagan branch but with half the population.

Asked if one partner agency stood out over the years, Yule shook her head.

“They’re all amazing,” said Yule. “They believe passionately in what they do. They care so much about people that need their services, they go to bat for them. From pre-natal nutrition to seniors and everything in between.”

Yule has helped launch United Way fundraising events such as Winemakers’ Dinner or Raising Spirits to help boost the coffers of the organization, but there’s one event that does bring a smile quickly to her face. The annual Drive Thru Breakfast every fall at the Prestige Vernon Lodge. That event alone has raised thousands of dollars where people donate for a bag of breakfast and goodies.

“It’s the one event every year that people ask ‘when is it? I don’t want to miss it.’” laughed Yule (Thursday, Oct, 3, 6 a.m., Prestige Vernon Lodge for 2019).

RELATED: United Way North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap breakfast bags big bucks

The event was started by the founder of the Funtastic Slo-pitch Tournament, John Topping, then a United Way volunteer, who borrowed an idea from Kelowna. The first Drive Thru Breakfast was at the old Vernon Credit Union (now VantageOne on 33rd Avenue), featuring coffee and a muffin.

But what makes the Drive Thru Breakfast and all of the other United Way events successful is the volunteer help.

“You can’t do events without help, without a huge volunteer base,” said Yule. “All of our community partners provide volunteers. We have people in the community, people on the board of directors, people who review applications so local decisions are made locally by people who know the community. They interview each agency and find out what they’re doing, then they never look at the community the same way again.”

Yule will be replaced by Tracy Anderson, and United Way has moved into a new office in the Interior Savings Credit Union building on 43rd Avenue, donated by the financial institution.

“I’m thrilled Tracy will be my successor,” said Yule. “She’s located here, she’s serving here, she’ll be out and about more. I’m really happy.”

Asked what she plans to do upon retirement, Yule said simply, “just breathe.”

“I have loved everything here,” she said. “United Way makes a huge difference.”

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