United Way said goodbye to longtime friend and supporter Mickey Hajash last week. Campaign Associate Felicity Smith spoke at the funeral to pay tribute to all that he did for United Way and his community.
I am honoured to have worked with Mickey and to be able to call him a friend.
I am deeply honoured to be asked to speak today about Mickey’s great generosity.
I began working at United Way in 2007. Mickey was a rather awe inspiring figure, a senior member of the remarkable Leaders Committee, a group of committed individuals who have raised millions of dollars for the community through their networks, both professional and personal.
Mickey was an accomplished, hard working volunteer fundraiser and he was adept at that hardest of tasks, make the ask. This is the point at which others often stumble, recoiling at the last minute from actually asking for money.
But Mickey knew poverty and he knew the power of education and he believed absolutely in the importance of giving back to the community.
Aside from his belief in the work of United Way, Mickey’s great strength was that he led by example. Donna and Mickey’s personal gifts, combined with Mickey’s fundraising through the Leaders Committee, have raised close to $4 million for our community, creating impacts and opportunities that have changed lives.
Mickey’s work on behalf of United Way was recognized in 1993 with the Volunteer of the Year Award and in 1997 he was made an Honorary Life Member.
In 2011, Mickey and Donna travelled to the National Conference of the United Way/Centraide in Calgary where Mickey was honoured with the Andre Mailhot Award. This prestigious award recognizes the exemplary commitment of a United Way volunteer to community, philanthropy and the United Way Movement. I recall how proud he was, bringing the award, carefully wrapped inside his old brown leather briefcase, into the United Way office for us all to admire.
As I got to know Mickey I learned that his charitable work extended far beyond United Way.
Since 1990 the Donna & Mickey Hajash Family Foundation has supported many young people in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan with educational scholarships. On average, 11 scholarships, each in the amount of $2500 are granted annually by the Family Foundation. What a difference these scholarships make to the young people who receive them!
Mickey’s leadership and compassion were demonstrated during the 1994 Commonwealth Games held in Victoria. As the team attaché to Sierra Leone (a have-not team) Mickey rallied friends, family and businesses to fund uniforms and running shoes which allowed the team to take part in ceremonies and to compete with pride.
He was a proud and active Rotarian. He was just as comfortable selling raffle tickets outside Thrifty’s in James Bay on a Saturday afternoon as he was soliciting large donations.
Mickey was awarded the National Philanthropy Day Spirit of Generosity Award in 2009 and in 2012 he received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Both Donna and Mickey were recognized in 2014 with the Leadership Victoria Lifetime Achievement Award for their contribution of innumerable volunteer hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for the community through their many philanthropic activities.
Mickey stepped aside from his active role on the Leaders Committee a couple of years ago, but he continued to feel personally connected to the United Way campaign. “How are we going?” he would always ask.
Many organizations have benefited from Mickey and Donna’s generosity. They have touched the lives of people who have never heard their names. Those of us who had the good fortune to know Mickey have lost a generous, steadfast friend. He is missed.
Our condolences to Donna, Trish and the family.