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Gold Medal Life
Sledge hockey phenom credits community support
Downtown bistro Kids in the Hall boosts employees’ ﬁnancial literacy
Constructing a New Record
PCL employees make history with $2 million donation
Back in Black
How one woman rebuilt her life and her ﬁnances
The art of community building
THIS ISSUE OF WE MAGAZINE IS GENEROUSLY SPONSORED BY EPCOR
Experience their stories, become inspired and discover the many lives being changed in our community.
MAGAZINE OF UNITED WAY OF THE ALBERTA CAPITAL REGION
Your FREE WE magazine subscription gets you in touch with the most current, high-proﬁle social issues impacting our community; it delivers the approaches and results of changing lives. Subscribers can choose to receive the digital edition through email or receive the print edition.
WINTER • 2012 SPOTLIGHT Financial Literacy
Local organizations focus on boosting financial literacy in the Capital Region By caitliN crawshaw
19 SMALL CHANGE, BIG IMPACT
24 BACK IN BLACK
DEPARTMENTS 4 MESSAGE FROM UNITED WAY 5 COMMUNITY CHAMPION
Learn how the Bowhay family, including its youngest members, gives back to the community
After leaving an abusive marriage without a job, Elaine Comeau has rebuilt her life and her finances By caitliN crawshaw
27 FINANCIAL LITERACY 101
Local educators share their top tips for making responsible financial decisions
FEATURES 10 THE ART OF COMMUNITY BUILDING
Constantine Tanasiuk’s photography depicts the social challenges and successes of individuals and families in our community By NaNcy critchley
6 THIS WAY IN
Coats for Kids & Families’ 20th anniversary and an updated InKind Exchange
16 RECORD BREAKERS
How the PCL family of companies became the first private organization to raise more than $2 million By alix Kemp
9 MYTH BUSTERS
Do people choose to be homeless? WE debunks common myths
30 POWERFUL PARTNER 39 BUSINESS WAY
Two local businesses share best practices on giving back EPCOR’s investment in the essentials, including financial literacy education, builds stronger communities for all By cailyNN KliNgBeil
40 LEADING EDGE
A local not-for-profit uses lean principles and shares its findings with others
32 A NEW BEAT
When a rapper and writer was asked to participate in United Way’s new music video, he didn’t know how powerful the music would be By Omar mOuallem
Meet Reg Basken, a long-time volunteer who has done it all
ON THE COVER: at the Kids in the hall Bistro, logan Knight preps food and learns how to manage his money. PHOTO: aaron pedersen / 3teN
36 ACK ON TRACK B
Brian McPherson’s life veered one way after an ATV accident left him paralyzed from the waist down By matt hirji
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O UR WAY
WINTER VOL 1 • No. 2 Joanne Currie Director, Financial Stability and Independence United Way of the Alberta Capital Region
UNITED WAY OF THE ALBERTA CAPITAL REGION EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Nancy Critchley ASSOCIATE EDITORS: Mike Kluttig, David Odumade EDITORIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE Joanne Currie, Sheilah Pittman, Anne Smith SPONSORSHIP AND CORPORATE SUPPORT COMMITTEE Nancy Critchley, Kevin Fitzgerald, Mike Kluttig, Debra Strate VENTURE PUBLISHING INC. PUBLISHER: Ruth Kelly ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER: Joyce Byrne ASSISTANT PUBLISHER: Andrew Williams MANAGING EDITOR: Cailynn Klingbeil ART DIRECTOR: Charles Burke ASSOCIATE ART DIRECTOR: Andrea deBoer ASSISTANT ART DIRECTOR: Colin Spence PRODUCTION MANAGER: Vanlee Robblee PRODUCTION COORDINATOR: Betty-Lou Smith DISTRIBUTION: Heather Morrison CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Caitlin Crawshaw, Nancy Critchley, Matt Hirji, Alix Kemp, Michelle Lindstrom, Omar Mouallem CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS AND ILLUSTRATORS: Aaron Pedersen / 3TEN, Stockwell Collins, Nancy Critchley, Christy Dean, Buffy Goodman, Mariusz Sikorski, Constantine Tanasiuk, Curtis Trent ABOUT UNITED WAY United Way of the Alberta Capital Region inspires people to come together to make a lasting difference in our communities.
From Poverty to Possibility
WELCOME TO THE SECOND EDITION OF WE MAGAZINE
where we will share some innovative and leading edge solutions that are moving people out of poverty to possibility. In this issue we explore several opportunities for people to understand their relationship to their money, increase their ﬁnancial capabilities, assist them to build their assets, and be hopeful about their future. Research has shown that ﬁnancial literacy skills and asset accumulation can have profound and positive, long-lasting effect on people’s lives. These skills not only serve to provide hope for those who are vulnerable and marginalized, but also help to create a healthier community overall. One of the innovative partnerships is the recently launched EMPOWER U. This one-of-a kind partnership focuses on helping women, most of whom are struggling with low income and poverty, learn ﬁnancial literacy skills and build their assets. A collaborative effort, EMPOWER U includes community organizations, funders and two corporate sponsors, EPCOR and ATB Financial. EMPOWER U will help build conﬁdent futures by providing ﬁnancial literacy training with a matched savings component to beneﬁt close to 1,000 women in Edmonton over the next ﬁve years. We hope you enjoy this second edition of WE Magazine. We owe our thanks for this issue to our generous community supporter and sponsor, EPCOR – our sincere appreciation goes out to them. We all want to live in a community where people are not simply surviving, but thriving – thanks to the many caring people who live in the Capital Region, we get closer to that goal every day.
WE is published for United Way of the Alberta Capital Region by Venture Publishing Inc., 10259-105 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 1E3 Tel: 780-990-0839, Fax: 780-425-4921, Toll-free: 1-866-227-4276 email@example.com
Printed in Canada by Transcontinental Interweb WE is printed on Forest Stewardship Council ® certiﬁed paper Publications Agreement #40020055 ISSN 1925-8690 Contents copyright 2012. Content may not be reprinted or reproduced without permission from United Way of the Alberta Capital Region.
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A Family Affair
The Bowhay family, including its youngest members, gives back to the community
BOB AND SHERYL BOWHAY LEAD BY EXAMPLE.
The longtime United Way supporters are involved in various community causes and their children, nine-yearold Hailey and three-year-old Connor, are following suit. Hailey saves part of her allowance to give to those who need it and at her recent birthday parties, she’s asked for donations instead of gifts. Hailey’s caring and generous values are being passed on to Connor, too. Below, Bob and Sheryl explain how they’re fostering community-minded values in their children. WE: How have you set up Hailey’s allowance and why did you decide to do this? Bowhay Family: The money is divided evenly into spending, saving and giving. It’s to build the value and philosophy of giving back to your community. We both give back to our community in a variety of ways and we think it’s an important value to instil in our kids. That’s how the allowance works and Hailey’s birthdays are also typically based around donations to a cause. Her friends don’t give her gifts, instead they give a donation. WE: Where has the birthday money been donated? BF: The last three years Hailey has chosen a charity and together we research it. One year it was for the Humane Animal Rescue Team (HART) and the next year she researched rainforests and her donations went toward a monkey bridge in the rainforest. This year we were in Ucluelet, B.C. at a tiny hands-on aquarium, so she chose to have her money go toward their new facility. There’s a context for her and that’s what helps make it meaningful. WE: When did you ﬁrst introduce Hailey to giving back to her community? BF: What started it was our community was building a new playground. Between the ages of two and four Hailey was coming along and involved in the playground research and fundraising. It just grew from there. At school and in the community she’s been exposed to a real nurturing community and we’re fortunate to be part of it. Hailey started doing the birthday donations when she was six, at an age when she understood it. Connor sees his sister operating in this way and maybe he will start it sooner or maybe he won’t. It’s not us saying “you should do this”, it’s us saying “do you want to consider doing this?” WE: What advice do you have to other parents who want to instil such values in their children? BF: It’s starting in very small ways that are hands-on. We’ve packed shoe boxes for Samaritan’s Purse so Hailey is involved in choosing the items, putting them in the box and doing research to see where they’ll go. It’s the opportunity to pack a shoebox or the opportunity to connect something you might be reading with your child. It’s just trying to make it very approachable to where a child is at.
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photos and text by NANCY CRITCHLEY
2 1 1. Anne Smith, president and CEO of
United Way, joins Salma Lakhani and Dr.
JusT Two LITTLE woRds
There are Two little words
that we use on a daily basis. Often, we don’t even know we say them because it’s second nature. But sometimes when we hear those two little words, they are so sincere and heartfelt that we can actually feel them. Such was the case the evening of November 2, 2011 at the Art Gallery of Alberta when a group of United Way’s major donors joined the organization’s staff for a special sponsored recognition reception. When Nimera Kalmbach and her daughter Sierra were invited to the podium by the event co-hosts, the Honourable A. Anne McLellan and Eric Young, Q.C., they looked like any other invited guests. But when Kalmbach spoke, holding back tears, it became obvious that she and her family are very thankful recipients of support from their community. “I can’t tell you how grateful we are for you and your support to United Way,” Kalmbach said. “To think that each and every day, you wake up and make a conscious decision to help someone in your community. To think that you care enough about others that you chose to make a significant contribution to United Way. You care about your community, you care about us, about my family – thank you.” “Thank” and “you” are just two little words, but when spoken with the amount of emotion and sincerity as Kalmbach delivered, they pack some power – and there were a few misty eyes after her heartfelt speech. That’s exactly what the evening reception was all about, to say “thank you” and celebrate community spirit. Ten-year-old Sierra Kalmbach was born with profound deafness that went undetected until she was nearly two years old. The family struggled to understand what was wrong with their little girl and as she got older, her learning was delayed. Then Sierra’s family discovered United Way Member Agency Connect Society. Sierra is now fully integrated into a regular school classroom, where she does very well in her studies. The event was sponsored by four very supportive United Way advocates (Deloitte, Capital Power Corporation, Worley Parsons and CoSyn Technology) and recognized those who have helped build community through their support to United Way. If it weren’t for these organizations, United Way could not have held this special event.
Zaheer Lakhani, a member of the United Way’s Board of Directors, at the reception.
2. Eric Young and A. Anne McLellan cochaired a United Way fundraising program and co-hosted the evening, along with Mayor Stephen Mandel.
3. A photography display was created by
local photographer Constantine Tanasiuk.
4. Joe and Nancy Thompson join Gene
Bourassa, United Way’s director of Major Gifts and Legacy Giving.
Ten-year-old Sierra Kalmbach received a
caricature portrait from artist Cathy McMillan
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COATS FOR KIDS & FAMILIES: 20 YEARS STRONG
UNITED WAY AND PAGE THE CLEANER
have been creating warmer winters in the Alberta Capital Region for the last 20 years. This year’s Coats for Kids & Families campaign ran October 25, 2011 to January 31, 2012. During the campaign, coats are collected at Page the Cleaner locations throughout the city. Once collected, Page provides the cleaning services. The coats are then sent to United Way’s InKind Exchange for sorting by numerous volunteers. Coats are then distributed throughout the community by United Way and partner organizations. Hannes Rudolph, general manager at Page the Cleaner, says that when his family took over Page the Cleaner 11 years ago, it “ﬁt quite well” to keep up the company’s involvement in the Coats for Kids & Families campaign. “It’s something that really fell in line with our interests,” Rudolph says. “We like to see the community helped in any way we can.” Over the years, Page the Cleaner employees have grown very attached to the cause, too. Rudolph says that this year many employees volunteered their own time to clean the coats – a testament to how strongly they feel about the campaign. Lynne Duncan, chair of the board of directors for United Way of the Alberta Capital Region, called the 20th annual Coats For Kids & Families campaign a signiﬁcant milestone. “It’s these types of partnerships and programs that continue to deﬁne what our community is about – working together to make a meaningful difference for those in need,” she said.
MUSIC VIDEO GOES NATIONAL
THIS ISSUE OF WE MAGAZINE features a special story on our 2011 video, Change Starts Here, an upbeat music video that tells the story of a man experiencing homelessness and his ﬁght to regain control over his life. The video, produced by PLANit Sound for United Way of the Alberta Capital Region, has hit some very high notes indeed. The video was posted on United Way’s YouTube Channel and the views quickly escalated to more than 1,000 per week, with audiences from across the nation watching the video. In fact, the response from other United Ways across Canada and United Way of Canada - Centraide Canada was so great that United Way of the Alberta Capital Region was asked to create a video that could be used nationally, for any United Way. So with a quick edit to the existing footage, a broad-based audience version is now available for use by other United Ways across the country. Since the launch of the video and ﬁrst live performance at the annual Campaign Kick-off Lunch in September 2011, United Way’s Change Starts Here performers have made several more guest appearances. That includes a number of workplace campaigns wanting to kick-off their United Way fundraising campaigns in style. And ﬁnally, the video is reaching thousands of IMAX audience members who take in the feature ﬁ lm at TELUS World of Science, Edmonton. Hearty thanks goes to producers R.J. Cui, Mike McLaughlin and Blake McWilliam of PLANit sound for their dedication to ensuring the video was the best it could possibly be.
United Way of the Alberta Capital Region also offers sincere thanks to Telus World of Science for their generous donation of Imax Play to help United Way gain exposure through the music video. To view the video, see an Imax film at Telus World of Science. Read more on page 32.
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Support. Shop. Serve.
Get your united Way SWaG
Visit United Way’s online
store to buy all your Change Starts Here gear – everything from United Way t-shirts, sustainable shopping bags, mitts and toques, coffee mugs and new this year, United Way piggy banks. www.myunitedway.ca/store
the inKind exchange (formerly known as United Way’s InKind Centre) is a community-based initiative by United Way of the Alberta Capital Region with strong partnership support from the City of Edmonton. The InKind Exchange offers a convenient, cost effective way for charities to acquire office furniture, technology, personal care products and toys. The InKind Exchange (IKE) bridges the gap between the charitable sector and the business world by offering a central gathering and distribution point for donated products. The items are then offered for sale from IKE’s warehouse store to member charities at far below market value. This allows resources to be focused on community work and not operational overhead. Over the past 12 months the IKE has undergone extensive changes, beginning in December 2010 with the move to a larger, brighter and more appropriate warehouse at 14710 – 112 Avenue (located close to United Way’s corporate office on Stony Plain Road and 151 Street). Also integrated in the changes to the innovative, one-of-a-kind operation is a new name and logo. The InKind Exchange name was selected because it best represents the action that takes place at the facility – the exchange of donated products, services, volunteer hours and community support. The logo was developed to be inviting, warm and welcoming, and it also complements the bright interior walls
of the warehouse. On September 9th, 2011 United Way of the Alberta Capital Region invited current and potential members to help the InKind Exchange celebrate its grand reopening. All not-for-profit agencies from the Capital Region were invited to an open house where they were served delicious food, offered facility tours and provided with demonstrations of the Staples Advantage e-way online ordering system. Staples Advantage is an exclusive offer to IKE members and is included in the annual IKE membership fee of $50.00. This efficient online order system through Staples offers not-forprofits a discount of up to 62 per cent. Examples of Staples Advantage product lines include office supplies, technology products, facility supplies, furniture and business services. Members experience a fully functional online ordering system, excellent customer care, easy-to-browse catalogues and next day delivery capabilities in most areas. If you are a registered Canadian charity, you are eligible for a membership at United Way’s InKind Exchange. A membership pays for itself in the first few shopping visits. Learn more about IKE and all it has to offer at www.inkindexchange .ca
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EDMONTON’S HOMELESS POPULATION
Jay Freeman, executive director of the Edmonton Homeless Commission, debunks common myths
EDMONTON’S 10-YEAR PLAN, “A Place to Call
Home,” addresses homelessness with a housing-ﬁrst approach. The plan ﬁnds permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness, then surrounds them with the supports they need. It’s an approach that changes how we think about the problem, but one that’s necessary. Below, Jay Freeman debunks three common myths about homelessness.
3500 3000 2500 2000 1500 1000 500 0 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 YEAR
2% don’t stay homeless for 3% MALE an extended period of FEMALE time. 25% He points to Portland, Oregon, a city that saw 12% a 39 per cent decline in overall homelessness 22% 61% and an astounding 70 per cent reduction in chronic homelessness 75% four years after enacting a housing-ﬁrst policy. “We’ve been doing AGE 0-16 17-30 31-54 55-65 66+ homeless counts in SOURCE: Homeward Trust Edmonton since 1999 and in the ﬁrst decade those numbers homeless consume enormous public went up,” Freeman says. Edmonton’s resources through emergency numbers went down for the ﬁrst time room visits, ambulance trips, in October 2010, after the plan was longer hospital stays, and the cost released. The 21 per cent drop, says of shelters and other emergency Freeman, was signiﬁcant. “We know services. the plan is working and it can be A 2007 study estimated 150,000 done,” he says. homeless Canadians cost taxpayers $4.5 to $6 billion every year. Cities MYTH: Homelessness is a in the U.S. show that the cost of problem, but it doesn’t impact me permanent, supportive housing or my community. programs can be less than the “We’re used to thinking of emergency costs associated with a homelessness as a social issue, chronically homeless person living but what people fail to see is on the street. the tremendous ﬁnancial cost,” Such numbers, says Freeman, Freeman says. show that “ending homelessness The costs impact everyone. isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s People who are chronically also the smart thing to do.”
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MYTH: People choose to be homeless. People become homeless for a variety of reasons, says Freeman, such as a woman and her family leaving an abusive relationship or a person struggling with a mental illness. “Do you really think that anyone says, ‘When I grow up, I’m going to be homeless?’” asks Freeman. Instead, when people face circumstances and situations without a network of support, they may end up on the street. One story that resonated with Freeman is of a man experiencing homelessness he spoke to a few years ago. Just six months earlier, the man had a family, a job and a home in the suburbs. But when the man’s daughter was killed in a car accident, his marriage couldn’t withstand the stress of the situation. He started to drink and a couple of months later lost his job and was soon on the street. “Did he choose to be homeless? Of course not,” Freeman says. But when the man’s support system fell apart, he became homeless. MYTH: Homelessness is too big of a problem to solve. It
just can’t be done. Freeman says that while tragic events will always happen and people may become homeless because of them, the focus of Edmonton’s 10-year plan is ensuring people
Every child should have the right tools for learning. Last fall, more than 12,000 backpacks ﬁlled with essential supplies were provided to children in need.
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After school programs provide neighbourhood children a safe place to learn, play and grow, contributing to personal and academic success.
by NANCY CRITCHLEY Photography by CoNstANtiNe TanasIuk
N THE EVENING OF NOVEMBER 2, 2011, United Way presented the inaugural Major Donor Appreciation event, sponsored by Deloitte, Capital Power Corporation, Worley Parsons and CoSyn Technology. A special part of the event was a black and
white photography display called “The Art of Community Building.” The photographs, which are displayed in the
following pages, depict the stories of individuals and families impacted by the work United Way conducts in its three areas of focus: All that Kids Can Be, From Poverty to Possibility, and Healthy People, Strong Communities. The photo essay was created especially for United Way by local photographer Constantine Tanasiuk of Genesis Studio, who generously contributed to the collection by giving his talents as an inkind donation to the event and the organization.
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THE ART OF COMMUNITY BUILDING
Overcoming learning challenges and developing new skills helps individuals build independence and create brighter futures.
Because of programs through the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton, in 2010, 1,078 seniors received assistance with home maintenance and repair, helping them live safely in their homes for a longer period of time.
After school programs provide neighbourhood children a safe place to learn, play and grow, contributing to personal and academic success.
In the ﬁrst two years of the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, homes were found for 1,300 people. Elsie and her daughters were three of them.
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Mental health matters in our community. With community education and help through programs for all ages, we can break down the barriers and help community members work toward better mental health. Every single month, volunteers help prepare about 15,000 nutritional hampers that are distributed to local individuals and families by local food banks.
Through Goodwill’s training and employment, opportuniParenting teens have support to complete their high school education. ties are created for adults with mental illness, brain injuries and physical disabilities.
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THE ART OF COMMUNITY BUILDING
Many people who experience homelessness seek support and opportunities for work through services at the Bissell Centre. Based on the most recent homeless count, 2,421 people in Edmonton are without a permanent home.
It takes a village to raise a child. Through education, mentoring, personal development and support programs, like Partners for Kids, we are helping to raise healthy children and strengthen families across the community.
Bridges are built when adults of all ages and cultural backgrounds are given the chance to learn.
United Way donors contribute to a program for children that ensures they have a nutritious lunch every school day. Last year 2,300 school children at 12 schools received these meals.
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COMMITTED TO THE CAUSE: Giving to United Way is ingrained at PCL, a family of independent construction companies. “It’s what we do,” says Jason Idler, campaign co-ordinator, pictured with Sara Carline, committee member.
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PCL employees come together for United Way and raise an unprecedented $2 million
Photography by CURTIS TRENT
N 2011, THE PCL FAMILY OF COMPANIES BROKE RECORDS, becoming the first private organization to raise more than $2 million in the 70 year history of United Way of the Alberta Capital Region through their Come2gether campaign. It’s an impressive accomplishment, and not the first one: The record they broke was their own, set when they raised $1.64 million for United Way with the 2010 campaign.
Jason Idler, vice-president of PCL Intracon Power Inc., was PCL’s campaign co-ordinator for the 2011 United Way campaign. He led a 28-person committee responsible for every detail of the fundraising efforts, which kicked off in September and closed in November. Though he’s proud of the $2-million mark ($2,015,396 to be exact), Idler downplays the difﬁculty of reaching the milestone, noting that giving to United Way is ingrained at PCL. “It’s what we do,” he says. For the 2011 campaign, the committee chose the theme Come2gether, a play on The Beatles’ song “Come Together,” which was inspired by PCL’s long-standing commitment to charitable contributions and also indicated their $2-million target. “There’s a strong culture in this organization of giving back through volunteer hours and donations in various capacities,” Idler says. “The theme was around what our organization does and what it was going to do this year for United Way.” The way that PCL “comes together” is what makes the company’s achievement so extraordinary. It isn’t just the amount of money raised, but the level of commitment displayed by PCL’s employees. Of the 1,016 employees in Edmonton, 75 per cent contributed to the campaign and 308 of them joined United Way’s Leadership Sponsors, which recognizes individuals who have donated over $1,000. In fact, PCL has more Leadership Sponsors in the Alberta Capital Region than any other organization.
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It’s an impressive feat, one that’s built on the legacy of PCL’s founder, Ernest Poole, who stressed the importance of honesty, integrity, fairness and good work. PCL, a family of independent construction companies, works on a variety of building, civil infrastructure and heavy industrial projects across the United States and Canada. The company was incorporated in 1906 in Saskatchewan as E.E. Poole Contractors. It became Poole Construction Company Limited in 1913. First headquartered in Saskatchewan, the Poole family and business moved to Edmonton in 1932, where PCL’s North American headquarters remain. Today, PCL is the largest contracting organization in Canada and works on more than 700 projects at any one time, from ofﬁce towers and hotels to water treatment facilities and petrochemical plants. PCL, now owned by its employees, has companies that employ over 8,000 people in Canada and the United States. Because PCL is employee-owned, it’s not surprising that the organization’s leadership is intensely supportive of the same charitable goals as its employees. While individual employees donate their time and There’s a strong culture in this money, PCL’s organization of giving back through commitment volunteer hours and donations in to United Way comes from various capacities. all levels of the organization. PCL also matches all individual donations made through the organization to United Way. It’s that kind of commitment that helped them reach the $2-million goal. The Edmonton PCL companies may be the ones breaking records but, as Idler points out, it’s just one piece of the organization’s commitment to the community. “We do it all across Canada and the U.S.,” he says. Branches of the PCL family, from Hawaii to Halifax, have participated in a variety of United Way causes over the years, as well as other charitable commitments, including Movember’s drive to raise funds for prostate cancer research and treatment and projects for Habitat for Humanity. Idler says the decision to give to United Way wasn’t a hard one. “Simply put, we feel that it’s the best avenue for the efforts and energies that we put in ... to get distributed in the proper areas in our community,” he says. “United Way does the best job; they’re able to manage the money with the best rate of return on the capital that’s there.” It’s also a longstanding relationship; though PCL’s partnership with United Way doesn’t quite span its entire century-long history, 2011 marks Edmonton PCL’s 43rd campaign for United Way. Sara Carline, who’s been a human resources co-ordinator with the PCL family of companies for three years, was a member of PCL’s United Way campaign committee. As a committee member, Carline helped with the theme creation and execution, planning the wrap up event, district canvassing, and organizing external volunteer events. Carline says the United Way campaign is signiﬁcant in part because of family members in need who beneﬁt from the organization’s work. She eagerly emphasizes the importance of PCL’s connection with the community and the opportunities that speciﬁc programs grant people. Carline appreciates the opportunity to do charitable work through PCL, especially to work with kids through PCL’s yearlong commitment to United Way. She’s active in Partners for Kids, a collaboration between United Way and other Edmontonbased organizations that aim to provide mentorship and support to children from low-income communities. With Partners for Kids, Carline brought a class of Grade 2 students to her ofﬁce for lunch and homework help from PCL employees. “It was a rewarding experience. We got an email back from Partners for Kids. The kids said that was the best ﬁeld trip they ever had. And all we did was help them with their homework,” she says. It’s an experience that clearly had an impact on her. “Watching the kids come in, their little faces just lit up,” she recalls. “One of the things that I remember, at the end of the session ... we asked them who wanted to ride in the elevator, and it was unbelievable how excited they got, because some of those kids had never ridden in an elevator before in their life.” As Carline says, “It shows how little it takes to go a long way.” It also puts into perspective how far PCL’s $2-million donation can reach, when only an hour of time can do so much. The money raised by PCL will go towards other programs that beneﬁt the community, including Tools for School and the InKind Exchange. Carline is proud that she could be part of the Come2gether campaign. “It was historical in our community and I felt engaged by the campaign this year. I felt privileged to be asked to participate.” She laughs when she adds, “I don’t know how they’re going to top it next year.” Idler, for one, isn’t quite ready to commit to breaking more records in 2012. “We’re just enjoying this right now,” he hedges, hesitant to commit to a target. “To keep growing it year over year ... it’s a challenge for sure, but the organization continues to ﬁnd new ways and break new ground in partnership with United Way,” he says. Regardless of next year’s campaign, it’s clear that PCL Edmonton’s ongoing commitment will continue to have a huge and positive impact.
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MONEY MENTOR: Troy Tisserand volunteers to teach sessions on credit, including protecting credit ratings and credit rebuilding plans.
by CAITLIN CRAWSHAW Photography by AARON PEDERSEN / 3TEN
Organizations across the Capital Region are committed to boosting ﬁnancial literacy. Here’s why.
HEN THE MAIL COMES, YOU FLIP THROUGH the stack: ﬂyers, more ﬂyers – and a bank statement. If you are like many Canadians, junk mail ends up in the recycle bag and the lone envelope ﬁnds itself in a stack on your desk, likely to be ignored until tax time.
It can be tough to look at your ﬁnances with a critical eye, especially when you’re not sure what you’re looking at. According to a national Ipsos Reid survey conducted on behalf of ABC Life Literacy last May, six in 10 Canadians – that’s more than 17 million people – say they need help with their ﬁnancial management skills.
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READY TO LEARN: Participants in the Women’s Savings Group learn a variety of ﬁnancial management skills, from budgeting to banking.
“Financial literacy is a person’s conﬁdence and ability a 40-member strong collaborative of representatives from to look at their ﬁ nancial resources,” says Joanne Currie, not-for-proﬁts, businesses and government committed to director, ﬁ nancial stability and independence at United ﬁ nancial literacy and asset development. The group was Way of the Alberta Capital Region. It’s not just about started when ﬁve organizations came together, committed crunching numbers, but about having the ability to to increasing the awareness of the importance of ﬁ nancial understand your habits and literacy and asset building. be intentional with your United Way joined in 2006. Financial literacy is a person’s spending decisions. Since hosting a “Financial conﬁdence and ability to look at their “It’s important for people Works” conference in 2009, of all income levels to look the collaborative has grown ﬁnancial resources. at their relationship with to more than 40 members money, how they spend and and has trained 85 save, and what their goals are,” Currie says. However, a lot facilitators in ﬁ nancial literacy. They now work provincially of people just don’t talk about money. This comes at a time and nationally on work related to ﬁ nancial literacy. when it’s easier than ever to acquire credit cards and other Educating all Albertans on ﬁ nancial literacy is forms of debt. important. Money matters to everyone, from families Add in consumer pressures and it can make it difﬁcult living low incomes to young adults struggling to track their for people to avoid the credit trap. “There’s a huge pressure spending to new immigrants with no credit rating. Without to consume, so to box that trend we have to really say, ‘I’m ﬁ nancial education, it can be easy to overlook where money not going to consume, I’m going to ﬁgure out how to reuse is going and difﬁcult to make changes. or go without,’ ” says Heather Morrison, a social worker with the City of Edmonton. Inside the Classroom Morrison chairs the Alberta Asset Building On a Wednesday evening in January a group of women Collaborative (formerly the Financial Plus Collaborative), gather in a room at Candora Society, located in north east
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Edmonton. They’re sharing food, talking and preparing for today’s sessions about credit, taught by a volunteer who works in the business of debt consolidation and credit rebuilding. These women have varied backgrounds, ages and experiences, but they’re all gathered here – and every Wednesday for 14 weeks – to learn more about money. Financial literacy, says Michelle Ackland of the Women’s Savings Group, is a topic that desperately needs to be talked about – to this group of women living in low income, and to everybody. “It’s just not there. We’re expected to learn by osmosis, and most times we learn it by making huge mistakes,” Ackland says. Participants at the Women’s Savings Group learn skills, such as how to track their money and make a realistic budget. Guest speaker Troy Tisserand, managing partner at 4 Pillars Consulting, is at today’s class to talk about credit, including assessing credit ratings, putting together a credit rebuilding plan and protecting credit ratings. “We teach them the value of credit, that credit is an asset for you and when something happens it can be a buffer,” Ackland says. The Women’s Saving Group has existed since 2007, but through a new initiative called EMPOWER U, the group will offer a matched savings component to participants, known as an Individual Development Account (IDA). “IDAs are a way for people to practice saving and get a benefit out of it,” Ackland says. Asset accumulation helps people living in low income, as assets reduce financial strain and enhance economic security, while providing a buffer against short term financial crises.
Credit Class: “A lot of people fall into some pretty difficult financial traps without even knowing it,” Troy Tisserand says.
The matched savings component of the program uses a 1:2 ratio to a maximum amount to help participants save toward a goal related to selfsufficiency. “It’s through these projects where people get to practice and learn that they can save,” Morrison says. “That’s one of the biggest hurdles; they believe they can’t save anything.” EMPOWER U started this January and includes financial literacy programs delivered to women by different partner agencies, as well as the matched savings component. The program, supported by EPCOR, ATB Financial, United Way of the Alberta Capital Region, the Alberta Asset Building Collaborative and other partners, provides the tools and knowledge needed for participants to build financial stability and independence. Read more about EMPOWER U on page 30. The courses specifically target women, including women who are in low income, experiencing homelessness, leaving domestic abuse and high-risk lifestyles, and are new to Canada. Financial literacy training is one strategy in a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy, says Currie. Not only does it help people make the most of the money they’re currently making, but it can lead to skill development and improved employment outcomes. Programs that target women, such as the Women’s Savings Group and EMPOWER U, are a good investment. “We know that when we work with women, it’ll benefit the whole family,” Currie says. Morrison notes that the lessons learned often trickle down to children, who will be more likely to be financially stable when they’re grown.
Children of all backgrounds can struggle when it comes to financial literacy. “People are more likely to talk to their children about sex than they are about
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money,” Ackland says. “It is a desperate topic that needs to be talked about, to kids, to anybody.” In the Capital Region, young adults learn ﬁ nancial skills through programs like E4C’s Kids in the Hall Bistro and the Youth Emergency Shelter’s Skills for Youth Program. “We’re bringing more awareness into what they think they know about saving money,” says Quena Sanchez, program supervisor at Skills for Youth, noting youth leaving an unhealthy home situation and living on their own for the ﬁ rst time are often unaware of all the expenses they face. Calvin Avery teaches ﬁ nancial literacy skills to at-risk youth, like Logan Knight, in the Kids in the Hall Bistro program. The program, which is supported by United Way, provides on-the-job experience for youth in the downtown Edmonton bistro, located in City Hall. Program manager Avery balances running a restaurant and catering business with teaching youth employment and life skills. As young people aged 16 to 24 work in the restaurant and receive a regular paycheque, the program’s leaders help with ﬁ nancial
management skills. “It’s done on a small group or individual basis because all these youth have different needs,” Avery says. Some youth have previously gained large amounts of money through illicit means and now, says Avery, they want to make an honest dollar. Those young people must learn how to live on less. Others have to learn to set boundaries with their money, as they may be the only person in their family earning an income and relatives are demanding of their money. “The majority of our youth need to pay rent,” Avery says. “We teach them what you need to do with your money in order to have enough for food and to pay your rent and buy personal items, and we look at why you want to save.” When a youth ﬁ rst enters the program,
EARLY START: At downtown lunch spot Kids in the Hall Bistro, youth like 19-year-old Logan Knight receive on-the-job experience and gain the skills necessary to save and budget their earnings.
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Set for financial SucceSS
People living in low-income may not get their taxes done because they think there is no benefit to them. “But they don’t realize there are certain benefits they won’t receive,” says Joanne Currie, director, financial stability and independence at United Way. E4C, a United Way member agency, runs the Make Tax Time Pay program, which recruits local volunteers to prepare taxes for community members at no charge. The program, in its seventh year, operates at about 28 tax sites around the city in March and April. “People don’t realize the ripple effect that not doing your taxes can have throughout the year. It’s not just about the tax season,” says Emily Wolbeck, program director and member of the Alberta Asset Building Collaborative. There are a wide range of government subsidies and benefits that put cash in the pockets of recipients on a monthly basis. Without this knowledge, and perhaps nervousness about preparing tax forms, many people need some help filing their return. Volunteers at the tax sites sit across the table from their clients and provide knowledge and support. “They make the clients feel more at ease,” Wolbeck says. Another issue faced by people living in low income, particularly those experiencing homelessness, is that ID can be stolen or go missing and can be costly and difficult to replace. But most banks require two pieces of ID to create a bank account, making it tough for some people to open accounts and follow a savings plan. To get around this, some people cash their cheques at so-called predatory lenders, which take as much as 30 per cent off the top, making a tight financial situation even tighter. “We want to work with financial institutions to make them more accessible to people living in low-income,” says Currie. Recently, a pilot project started between Alberta Human Services and CIBC at two downtown Edmonton branches, to see if they could improve access for people on Alberta Employment/Alberta Works. The program allowed participants to set up their bank account with only one piece of ID and had the government make a direct deposit into participants’ bank accounts. People living on low incomes may worry about banks taking their wages to pay for overdue bills, so the program arranged reasonable payment plans for some participants owing money. After the small-scale pilot, the program is now running across the province. “We’re trying to look at the big picture overall: what are some of the barriers to people being set up for financial stability?” Currie says. Learn about other financial literacy initiatives, including The Home Program and Youth Emergency Shelter Society’s Skills for Youth program, at www.wemagazine.ca
Bistro Boss: Calvin Avery balances running the bistro in City Hall, open Monday to Saturday, with teaching the program’s participants employment and life skills.
Avery says it’s not uncommon for them to receive their first paycheque on a Friday, spend it all, and come back on Monday asking for bus passes for the week. “We know we’re being effective when they’re not coming to us asking for extra money or advances or for bus passes,” he says. Money also matters on the job, as youth gain an understanding of the restaurant business and basic work responsibilities. Avery recalls how on a recent shift, staff averaged 10 per cent in tips. “The next day the supervisor worked with them on customer service and they got 18 per cent in tips. We talked after about how customer service has an impact on how much money you can earn,” Avery says. Avery, who has been with the program for all of its 16 years, acknowledges that there are hectic days like at any restaurant. But what keeps him coming back to the Bistro is knowing he has an impact. When past participants stop by the Bistro to say hello, it’s a sign the program is working. “Sometimes I don’t even recognize them when they walk through the door because they’ve changed so much,” Avery says.
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BALANCING ACT: Elaine Comeau has built a new life and become ﬁnancially stable
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After leaving an abusive marriage without a job or prospects, Elaine Comeau has rebuilt her life — and her finances
by Caitlin Crawshaw Photo by CHRiStY DEaN
ith a condo of her own, retirement savings and a career she enjoys, Elaine Comeau has come a long way. In 1997 after almost 30 years of abuse, Comeau left her husband with little more than the contents of a black duffel bag.
Since then, Comeau has built a new life and become financially stable. She now uses her own experiences to help others in the Capital Region with their finances, offering financial counselling to clients as a part-time associate at World Financial Group, and also volunteering to give talks about her experience and coach women in a local financial literacy group. Even 15 years later, Comeau finds her new life a bit surreal. After all, she was stuck in an abusive relationship for much of her adult life and, for many years, she didn’t understand what was happening. “It’s almost like brainwashing. They tell you you’re not good enough, you’re stupid, you don’t keep the house clean enough – even though it’s spotless,” she says.
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BACK IN BLACK
That abuse occurred as Comeau raised a son and worked for many years as an administrative assistant and stenographer. But by the time her son was grown, she realized things weren’t right. She made several false starts before she was able to leave her husband permanently. The turning point came when her husband decided to retire, buy a ﬁfth wheel and travel across North America. The couple sold their acreage an hour southwest of Edmonton and Comeau was left to keep track of the ﬁnancial tasks associated with the move (she’d handled their ﬁnances with a lot of difﬁculty for most of their marriage). But Comeau made some mistakes and even though her husband was dipping into the couple’s money without telling her, he became enraged when he discovered the ﬁnancial errors she’d hidden from him. Afraid of what he might do, she drove to High River to stay with siblings. For two weeks, Comeau refused to speak to her husband when he called. When she ﬁnally did talk to him on the phone, he sobbed and begged her to come back and join him on the trip. Comeau reluctantly returned and for almost ﬁve years, they travelled the continent. Comeau regretted not leaving him when they’d sold their home and ﬁnally, during a particularly nasty altercation in Great Falls, Montana, she left. Comeau’s husband dropped her off at a store to buy a duffel bag for her things and she took the next ﬂight back to Edmonton and moved in with her 24-year-old son. While the couple had split the proceeds from the sale of the acreage, most of Comeau’s share had been spent during their journey. What she had left would only keep her going for a short while, but ﬁnding a job was tough since she hadn’t worked for the last ﬁve years. For several months she had no income at all and relied on a food bank. When she ﬁnally found work, it was underpaid and ﬂeeting. Even though she was broke, Comeau felt more ﬁnancially empowered than she had in a long time. For years, her husband had racked up credit card debt and taken money out of their shared bank account without telling her. Comeau had learned basic ﬁnancial management skills when she took a college program in the 1970s, but managing their ﬁnances and following a budget, under those conditions, was next to impossible. “It was easier keeping track of things when I was on my own, because I was the one spending the money,” she says. Comeau knew she had to upgrade her skills to get a full-time job. She registered in an administrative program at NAIT and paid her tuition with the last of her funds, a government bursary, a student loan and some help from family members. At 51, Comeau graduated and began working again. Comeau knew she’d just begun to ﬁgure out her career and ﬁnances and needed all of the help she could get, so whenever she heard about a program in the community, she’d sign up. Bit by bit, Comeau was rebuilding her life. But even as she gained conﬁdence and skills, she was haunted by her abusive marriage. When Comeau attempted to get a car loan she discovered she had no credit score, since she had banked with her husband for 30 years and the bills were in his name. To get the vehicle she needed to get to work, Comeau needed her brother to co-sign the loan. There were also emotional scars that needed healing. Fortunately, a variety of community programs helped Comeau process her painful history. She took a program through Edmonton Community Services that helps survivors understand the psychology of abuse and care for themselves, including managing their ﬁnancial lives. “This was all part of the healing process. I’d been on that emotional rollercoaster for almost 30 years,” Comeau says. Since graduating, she has returned to the group and mentored participants. As Comeau built her skill set, her career developed – but in ﬁts and starts. Eventually, a friend told her about an administrative job at Pelican Products, a company that makes watertight cases, and the position was a good ﬁt. Comeau has worked there for the last six years. She’s also working as a part-time associate with World Financial Group, thanks to a lead from another friend who knew about Comeau’s budding interest in ﬁnance. The ﬁrms
When Comeau attempted to get a car loan, she discovered she had no credit score, since she’d banked with her husband for 30 years and the bills were in his name.
helps clients ﬁnd the best investments, mortgages and insurance at large ﬁnancial institutions. In this role, Comeau often provides ﬁnancial counselling to clients. She’s helped families save a signiﬁcant amount of money per month and helped others avoid bankruptcy. Comeau says many people need help ﬁguring out their ﬁnances. “People just live their lives in quiet desperation, from paycheque to paycheque,” she says. Comeau knows what it’s like to be there, barely eking out a living and struggling to save. But now, in addition to making a healthy living and saving for her future, Comeau owns her own condo in Edmonton. Five years ago she participated in The Home Program, which helps people understand the ins and outs of buying a home and gives those who qualify up to $3,000 to put towards a down payment. Comeau is struck by how radically her life has changed, but she knows the ﬁnancial challenges aren’t over yet. While she’s been saving for the future, she jokes about being on the “Freedom 100” retirement plan. But Comeau is satisﬁed with the ﬁnancial gains she’s made. “I’m in a heck of a better position than I’ve ever been in,” she says. “I’ve actually got some investments and every month I’ve been putting some money aside for my granddaughter’s education.”
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Local teachers share their top tips for making responsible ﬁnancial decisions
EOPLE FACE FINANCIAL CHOICES AT EVERY STAGE IN LIFE, from a child receiving allowance and opening his or her first bank account to adults saving to buy a car or home, start a family, or plan for retirement.
Add in life’s unexpected events, such as losing a job or coping with illness or disability, along with societal pressure to consume and social taboos that discourage talking about money – and the need to understand and manage ﬁnances is constant. But despite the ubiquity of such money matters, it can be difﬁcult to know where to start when looking at one’s own ﬁnances. That’s where ﬁnancial literacy education comes in. Financial literacy, according to the National Task Force on Financial Literacy, is having the knowledge, skills and conﬁdence to make responsible ﬁnancial decisions. It is through education on ﬁnancial literacy that understanding is gained and behaviour is modiﬁed. WE interviewed local people involved in ﬁnancial literacy education in the Capital Region to learn basic tips for addressing money matters.
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FINANCIAL LITERACY 101
BUDGETING IS AN IMPORTANT SKILL, ESPECIALLY GIVEN GROWING societal pressure on consumers to spend beyond their means. According to Michelle Ackland, who runs the Women’s Savings Group at Candora Society, budgets often fail because people don’t realize where their money is going. Creating a basic budget involves recording all sources of income, creating a list of monthly expenses, breaking those expenses into wants and needs, then totaling monthly income and expenses and adjusting expenses as needed. At the Women’s Savings Group participants track their spending, recording every purchase or payment they make, in order to see where their money is going. After they have tracked their spending they discuss what most surprised them about their spending habits, and Ackland says that’s where some of the best learning occurs. Online tools can help track spending and monitor a range of bank accounts and credit cards. By tracking spending people gain an accurate idea of their habits, so they can then create a budget that is more realistic. “By fully knowing where money is spent, you’ll be able to better change your spending habits,” says Ackland.
INVOLVE THE FAMILY
“FINANCIAL LITERACY IS PART OF AN ESSENTIAL skill that people need to develop in order to become more independent,” says Donna MacPherson, a member of the Alberta Asset Building Collaborative and contract services co-ordinator with the Alberta Government’s Human Services Department, which funds various ﬁnancial literacy programs. “I think it’s valuable for everyone across the board. It ﬁts with every stage of life, from a young person getting their ﬁrst job to savings plans to understanding how things like cell phone contracts work. To me, it applies to everything.” Because financial literacy is so important to every stage in life, it’s crucial that people start learning about it from an early age. Families can teach their children financial skills in a variety of ways. One way is to split a child’s allowance into four categories – save, spend, give and invest – to help teach children to budget and plan for savings and expenses. Another way is to involve children in budgeting, which can help them appreciate the value of money. Michelle Ackland, with the Women’s Savings Group, says people should start talking to their children
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about ﬁ nancial matters early on. In the courses she runs for local women, she often sees the aftermath of not having those conversations from a young age. One of the ﬁrst parts of the ﬁnancial literacy course taught by Ackland includes talking about how the group’s participants feel about money. “Financial matters are very emotional, which a lot of people don’t realize,” Ackland says. “We ask how did you learn about money? Are you like your parents? Are you different?” These conversations help participants acknowledge their own spending habits and determine why they spend the way they do.
A free ﬁnancial literacy workshop is available to any Albertan through BGS. The full day courses are offered in partnership with Alberta Human Services. “Financial Literacy: Level 1 The Basics” covers budgets, tracking spending, consumerism and learning how to manage temptations and change negative spending habits. “Financial Literacy: Level II Credit” explores how good credit can be easily established, built or repaired if damaged. Learn more and register at www.bgsenterprises.com, then follow the links to Our Programs Career & Employment Workshops Workshop Schedule. “This allows anyone to go and register and get a sense of ﬁnancial literacy,” says Donna MacPherson, contract services co-ordinator with Alberta Human Services. To learn more about the Women’s Savings Group, visit www.candora.ca/WSG.asp
FROM BUYING A HOME TO PREPARING FOR retirement, planning ahead is necessary. There are a wide range of financial products and services to help, but knowing what makes the most sense for one’s needs is not always clear. Local financial literacy programs use various tools to help participants learn to save. Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), for example, match every dollar saved with a corresponding amount, which serves as a reward and incentive to further the habit of saving. These programs also teach people about existing savings programs, such as Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs), Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) and Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSPs). These savings plans with the Government of Canada help people save for various stages of life. Another area of education is credit. Troy Tisserand, managing partner at 4 Pillars Consulting Group, volunteers to teach sessions on credit rebuilding to local not-for-proﬁts, a role he’s held since 2006. At his sessions, Tisserand sees various participants: new immigrants who want to understand how the credit system works and how they can build a credit rating, people who recognize their credit is not good and want to rebuild it, and people who have a good credit rating and want to understand how to protect it. Tisserand teaches a session to the participants enrolled in Michelle Ackland’s Women’s Savings Group. “We teach them the value of credit and that credit is
an asset for you,” Ackland says. “It’s a buffer that can keep you from starving. It’s not just a way to go buy a new pair of boots.” Tisserand walks participants through three steps to successful credit rebuilding, which begins with assessment. “The very ﬁ rst thing we recommend is to get a copy of your credit report,” Tisserand says. After teaching participants about credit assessment, Tisserand discusses putting together a credit rebuilding plan and protecting one’s credit rating. “A lot of people fall into some pretty difﬁ cult ﬁ nancial traps without even knowing it,” Tisserand says.
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EPCOR’s investment in the essentials – water, energy and education – builds stronger communities for all
by CAILYNN KLINGBEIL
PCOR IS A UTILITIES POWERHOUSE that delivers water and power to communities across Western Canada. The company, headquartered in Edmonton, has a community investment approach that mirrors its everyday operations. By focusing on providing more of the essentials – water and food; energy, shelter and safety; and education – EPCOR builds stronger communities and families.
To further that goal, EPCOR recently partnered with United Way of the Alberta Capital Region and other community partners for a new ﬁnancial literacy program, EMPOWER U. EPCOR is in the business of providing the essentials and ﬁnancial literacy is an essential skill, one that impacts food, shelter and education. In addition to funding EMPOWER U, EPCOR is the sponsor of this ﬁnancial literacy themed issue of WE. The EMPOWER U program provides vulnerable people with the tools and knowledge needed to build ﬁnancial independence and stability. EMPOWER U is delivered by United Way agencies to women and families in the community. EPCOR’s ﬁve-year ﬁnancial commitment ensures a matched savings component to the program’s participants at a ratio of 1:2, meaning every dollar saved by participants generates two dollars in matched contributions. Savings can be used for designated purposes related to self-sufﬁciency, through education, skills training or self-employment. WE interviewed Dianne Allen, senior manager, EPCOR Community Essentials Council, about the new program and EPCOR’s approach to community investment.
WE: EPCOR has a lengthy tradition of supporting the communities it operates in, through the three pillars of water, energy and education. Can you describe this approach? DIANNE ALLEN: We have been supportive of the Edmonton community for a long time, even back to our Edmonton Power days. In 2009 we did some brand research and one of the areas researched was community investment and sponsorship. The public knew we were involved in lots of things in Edmonton, but couldn’t necessarily pinpoint exactly what we were involved in. So we took a step back and looked at better focusing our community investment. We looked at our lines of business, which are water and power, and we came up with three pillars. That has become our focus since the start of 2010. The three pillars are around water and food, energy, which involves shelter and safety, and education. WE: Where does EPCOR’s new initiative with United Way, the EMPOWER U ﬁnancial literacy program, ﬁt into this approach? DA: If you look at ﬁnancial literacy it connects to all the pillars. If we can educate low income Edmontonians or single parents or couples or whoever to better handle and manage their money, then that keeps them out of the food bank. It keeps them out of the water and food pillar and it also gives them shelter and a safe environment to raise their children in. The education component is linked back to those other pillars. WE: Can you describe the new program?
DA: We’re hoping to put 150 women through the program each
year and I think that’s very exciting. There’s also a matching piece to
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ESSENTIAL INVESTMENTS: This year, 150 women (like those pictured on the left) will complete a new ﬁnancial literacy program supported by EPCOR. Above, employees Shelly Finnie, Kathleen Zeissler, Ros Winde-Chrunik and Priti Laderoute take part in EPCOR’s United Way workplace campaign.
the program that our funds go toward. For every dollar one of the participants saves, their money will be matched at the end of the program two to one. So if they’ve saved $1,000, they’ll end up with $3,000. That money then has to be used for very speciﬁc things, such as to further their education or put a down payment on a place. This program is about supporting people to be resilient and have sustainable livelihoods, free from poverty.
The EMPOWER U program is about supporting people to be resilient and have sustainable livelihoods, free from poverty.
for everyone involved – for the client group that this program serves, for us, and for United Way – is positive. It’s better than me sitting here trying to pick something I think is important to the community when I don’t have as great a pulse on the community as United Way has. WE: EPCOR is also involved in a number of other programs, including one that supports EPCOR employees who are active in their communities. What is that program all about? DA: We have a program called the Helping Hands Grant Program. For every 30 hours that an employee volunteers with an organization in the community for a one year period of time, we donate $300 to the charity of their choice. If the employee, for example, coaches hockey for their son’s team or their daughter’s team, once they hit the 30 hour mark, they get the $300 cheque. The money does not necessarily have to go to the charity that they got the hours for, but it has to be a registered non-proﬁt charity. We’re also encouraging people in the company that have a ﬁnancial background who would like to volunteer with the ﬁnancial literacy program to do so. We have people in our ﬁnance area who are exploring that possibility right now. They could help write the curriculum or they could deliver the material or they could work one-on-one and mentor participants if they need additional help with the program.
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WE: One of the ways EPCOR gives back to the Edmonton community is through a United Way workplace campaign. Who gets involved in this and what does the two week campaign typically look like? DA: We’ve been doing a United Way workplace campaign for years. We have a program with the pledge component and then we also have a few special events to raise awareness and let people have some fun. EPCOR employees have done everything from a carnival at one of our sites, to playing golf in the hallways around the building, to a pie throwing contest with the executives. It’s really up to the sites, which come up with their own things that they think will be of interest to the staff at those locations. We have a two week campaign that we run both the pledges and special events in. WE: How does EPCOR’s partnership with other organizations, such as United Way, create a stronger community for everyone living in the Capital Region? DA: United Way has a really good handle on the issues that are facing the community in terms of social needs. I think us working together with them to ﬁnd a program that’s a win win
CHANGE STARTS HERE: United Way’s new music video was shot in one full day at about 10 locations around Edmonton. It features three cast members, four rappers and a string quartet. Together, they tell the story of a man who, with the help of United Way, gets his life back on track and is able to provide and care for his son.
PHOTO TAKEN FROM THE VIDEO
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Behind the scenes at the making of United Way’s innovative and inspiring new music video
by OMAR MOUALLEM Photography by NANCY CRITCHLEY
HEN RAPPER AND WRITER OMAR MOUALLEM
(also known as Assault of Knowledge or AOK) was asked to participate in United Way’s new music video, he didn’t know how powerful the music – and the experience – would be. Here, Mouallem shares the story behind the video.
My temporary bandmates and I sat around a table at the back of the hall in Edmonton’s Expo Centre at Northlands like outliers. At the campaign kickoff for the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region’s 70th anniversary luncheon, the dress code was formal but we were dressed for a rap video – our rap video. “Change Starts Here” is the ofﬁcial anthem for United Way of the Alberta Capital Region, which commissioned the song and video from music marketing company PlanIt Sound in June, 2011. By December, the music video had accumulated more than 11,500 hits on YouTube. But on that mid-September afternoon, few had seen it other than the United Way’s board and staff, plus the video’s three other musicians and two ﬁlmmakers who were sitting at my table. Like a secret weapon, no one was anticipating the video. It was meant to invigorate United Way supporters to help achieve the organization’s annual fundraising goal of $21.5 million. We were dressed in the outﬁts we wore in the video because we were the second secret weapon, set to hit the stage directly after the video played, to give the effect of having walked right off screen. The lights dimmed and the screens opened with the music video. The sounds of clinging glasses and forks vanished; the audience was rapt.
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A NEW BEAT
LOCAL TALENT: The “Change Starts Here” video features Edmonton musicians including Martin Kloppers (left) and Fendercase (Ian Alleyne).
THE VIDEO TELLS AN INSPIRING STORY about a down-on-his-luck man she says, “all that a kid can be.” Djulic, 16, is shy as any who, with the help of United Way, is able to help his family and ensure that his girl her age, but she’s also a ﬁerce rapper, able to gobble son receives the opportunities that his father struggled for. It’s ﬁctional, but 10 words in two seconds. (She would later write a new not. The man snooping behind dirty mattresses for empty bottles and the boy version of her verse because the original was too fastin the back of the class could be any of the thousands of people given second paced for many ears.) chances because of United Way and its more than 50 member agencies. Fendercase (whose real name is Ian Alleyne) used his PlanIt Sound, an Edmonton advertising and music-branding agency, smooth voice to stick the story together. It was brilliant was contracted to put this anthem together from the studio to the screen. watching him in the studio as he effortlessly pushed out The goal was to provide something that would inspire, but that would also the chorus until its crescendo in the ﬁnal notes of the educate people about the organization’s pillars and the work that it does in the song. It’s no wonder the Edmonton Music Awards named community. Last year R.J. Cui, PlanIt Sound’s president, recruited me for a video he was producing for the Global Youth Assembly (GYA) using the same ﬁlmmakers, and that’s what got the attention of United Way. While the GYA’s anthem involved over 10 artists, United Way was looking for a narrative about one person, a man who would serve as a symbol for its thousands of clients. I got the call from Cui in June. Cui, who also produced the song and is the ﬁrst rapper in the video, asked me to write a verse with him that would tell this man’s story, from the back alley to the front yard. FILM IT: PlanIt Sound, an advertising and music-branding agency, Young rapper Doris Djulic tells the story of were behind the cameras, and produced the song and video. the man’s son in the third verse, and how he went from being a statistic to becoming, as
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him the 2010 R&B Artist of the Year. People have commented to us about how well the video narrative “ﬁts” our song, but in fact our lyrics ﬁt the narrative. Even before we put pens to paper and mouths to microphone, Cui, ﬁlmmaker Mike McLaughlin and United Way’s communications team had hatched the story out of the potent image of a man shaving in the reﬂection of an ofﬁce tower window. We had a brief meeting about creative expectations, and then we split for two weeks to write our verses before reconvening in COME TOGETHER: The video includes the stories and faces of United Way clients, which gives the ﬁctional story “a heartbeat.” R.J.’s studio. By the time I left the music laboratory, I was sure that this was something special. During my drive home, I listened to a very rough recording of it, which I that Edmonton has virtuoso artists. And, although the had bootlegged during our ﬁrst listening. In one long evening, we’d recorded urban landscape in it is very local, the story connects something that was moving, visual and energetic. It was educational too, worldwide and is being used to promote United Way because later that night I was able to tell my ﬁancée about United Way’s role organizations all over Canada. in the community, based only on crafting the song. I told her that this is the Since its premiere at the campaign kickoff in most powerful music I’d ever helped make. September, promos for the video But, powerful as it was at its infancy, it was have played on Cineplex screens The video tells a story that’s the second version that blew me away. before coming attractions ﬁctional, but not. The man snooping Cui had spliced the new version with the and have been featured on behind dirty mattresses and the boy testimonials of United Way clients. Wrapped TV news outlets. It’s put us, in the back of the class could be any inside the true stories of people like Pamela the musicians, in front of TV of the thousands of people given Spurvey, our ﬁctional story suddenly had a cameras too, and various heartbeat. There were parts of Spurvey’s life that United Way corporate sponsors second chances by United Way. matched our lyrics. Spurvey had struggled with have invited us to perform at addictions that left her homeless, but United their related fundraisers. And, Way took her from “poverty to possibility.” Because of its support, she was as a testament to how quickly and widely it spread, it has given “a hand instead of given handcuffs.” And, like the ﬁctional boy Djulic gotten me recognized in a few odd public places. rapped about, Pamela’s children beneﬁted from the programs we alluded to, The highlight of this experience for me occurred at the such as Coats for Kids and Tools for School. kickoff, when the music cued up a second time and Cui, Spurvey also became part of the video when it was shot a few weeks later Djulic, Alleyne and I started towards the stage. Before in one full day, at about 10 locations, with a cast of three. Though she wasn’t we even climbed up on the stage, there was thunderous a cast member her face ﬂashed brieﬂy, interspersed with the dramatized applause. When we ﬁnished, posing on stage with the story of our hero, played by Dean Torresan, and his son, who was played by actors, ﬁlmmakers and everyone else who made it his real son, Logan. possible, I could see tears in people’s eyes. Among them Cui and producer Blake McWilliams of Backroad Productions also was Spurvey, who would later tell me that watching the managed to get a string quartet (made up of Edmonton musicians Moni music video was like watching her life unfold. Mathew, John Calverley, Miriam Ferguson and Martin Kloppers) to Maybe it’s because I grew up on hip hop, a music more perform a part of the song in front of an industrial gravesite off Fort Road. likely to move you physically than emotionally, but I The contrast of harshess and beauty is, for me, the video’s most formidable doubted our song could be so touching. Then again, we moment. weren’t just making a song, we were telling a story. After Everyone in front and behind the lens was local talent. This video is of that premiere, people told me time and again that the such quality that United Way has submitted it for a Juno nomination on video moved them to tears. I guess the “here” in “Change more conviction than whimsy. Whether it is nominated or not, it’s evidence Starts Here” is in their hearts.
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GOLD MEDAL DREAMS: If all goes according to plan, Brian McPherson will be on the ice at the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.
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Brian McPherson’s life veered one way after an ATV accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. But through sport and support from social agencies, he’s taken his life back
by MATT HIRJI Photography by CONSTANTINE TANASIUK
WO YEARS AGO BRIAN MCPHERSON took the ice for his first game as a member of the Canadian national sledge hockey development team. He proudly wore a red and white jersey with the maple leaf, lined up beside his teammates and readied himself to sing the national anthem.
Overcome with emotion, however, McPherson couldn’t even muster the ﬁrst “O”. Instead, his throat tightened and his eyes welled up, then tears streamed down his face. “That’s when it dawned on me,” McPherson says. “I thought, ‘Wow. This is something.’ I looked at the maple leaf and thought how much of an honour this is.” McPherson put his head down on his gloves, trying to hide his tears from his teammates. When he did look up, six others on the team had tears in their eyes, too. McPherson is paralyzed from the waist down, the result of an ATV accident more than 15 years ago. While 32-year-old McPherson now plays sledge hockey for Canada’s B squad, where he’s being groomed for a spot on the national team, it took a lot of hard work to get there. His life veered one way after the ATV accident, but McPherson credits many people and organizations for helping him turn things around – ultimately leading to that spot on the ice two years ago. McPherson never predicted there would come a time when people would look up to him, when he’d be given a chance to represent Canada, he says. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that.”
IT WAS ON AN AFTERNOON, late in the summer of 1995, that McPherson’s life
changed forever. Then a 17-year-old, he was riding a three-wheeled ATV at Skeleton Lake, Alberta. He lost control and ﬂipped his vehicle, landing on a stray log and crushing his T12 vertebra. The accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. Not only had McPherson lost movement in his legs, but he also felt like he’d lost his identity. He could no longer enjoy the outdoor activities and sports that he previously had.
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BACK ON TRACK
At ﬁrst, McPherson didn’t understand how bad things were. “The doctor McPherson’s wheelchair basketball career had many walked up to my bed and said ‘You’ve got a three per cent chance of walking.’ highlights. In 2005, the Alberta Northern Lights won the It was right then when it ﬁnally set in that this was not going to be good,” National Wheelchair Basketball Association championMcPherson says. ship and the team was later inducted into the Alberta “It was devastating. I just didn’t have a reason to be around anymore.” Sports Hall of Fame. McPherson then set his sights on For the next few years, McPherson struggled to cope with his new circumanother sport: sledge hockey. stances and was unwilling to accept help from his family or assistance from “I went out to try it one afternoon and fell in love with organizations. Instead, he turned to alcohol to suppress his pain and anger. the sport right away,” McPherson says. “I loved it because He began to drink constantly. it was hockey. It’s Canada’s sport.” His alcohol abuse took a toll and McPherson’s relationships with his family McPherson was a natural and, before long, his bold became strained. His erratic and sometimes uncontrollable anger made him style of play earned him a spot on the national developdifﬁcult to be around. McPherson eventually had to leave his parents’ home ment team roster. And if all goes according to plan, because of his self-destructive behaviour. He he may be on the ice for “O became homeless for nearly two months in the Canada” at the Paralympics It was on an afternoon in late fall of 1997. in Sochi, Russia, in 2014. “The last night I slept on the street I had a “I’m proud of where I am,” summer, 1995, that McPherson’s self-awareness that this was the way my life was McPherson says. He also life changed forever when he going to end. If I kept acting this way then I was hopes his journey – from lost control and ﬂipped the going to die on the streets,” McPherson says. life-altering accident to ATV he was riding, leaving him “But I knew that I didn’t want my life to end at struggling on the streets to paralyzed from the waist down. 19. That was the personal changing point for representing his country – is me. The next morning I contacted the CPA.” an inspiration to others. He was 17. The CPA, or Canadian Paraplegic Associa“Nothing’s impossible,” he tion, is an organization that assists people with says. “It’s just how you do it.” spinal cord injuries and other physical disabilities. United Way of the Alberta And while McPherson has been inducted into the Capital Region provides funding to the CPA, which in turn helps people with Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and scored goals for Team spinal cord injuries achieve independence, self-reliance and full community Canada, he describes the highlight of his experiences as participation. More than 86,000 people live with spinal cord injuries in something much simpler. McPherson says that it’s when Canada, with an estimated 4,300 new cases each year. he sees the proud look on his mother Judy’s face that he The CPA immediately connected McPherson to social services and helped knows he has overcome his physical disability and has achim ﬁnd housing. Once McPherson was ready to accept assistance, the CPA complished something spectacular. gave him the tools he needed to navigate the steep learning curve that came “I’m so proud of him. Absolutely, incredibly proud of with his him,” Judy McPherson says. “He was always a smart kid, accident. The organization provided guidance about everything from what and he was always helping people … but the United Way wheelchair would be the most suitable for his circumstances to counselling for and the CPA have just allowed him to use the talents that his family. he already had to shine.” “Within a very short period of time, I had my ﬁrst wheelchair-accessible Those talents are put to use in McPherson’s apartment, subsidies for housing and funding through social services. That current position, as a peer program co-ordinator at the was basically the start of my rehab process,” he says. “Without the CPA I don’t CPA’s Edmonton ofﬁce. He mentors newly-injured people know where I would’ve turned. It was a crucial part to overcoming my disabiland provides those learning to cope with physical disity. It meant everything to me.” abilities support, information and guidance. After all, he’s Now that he had a place to sleep at night, McPherson could begin the been there. process of putting his life back together. He began to enjoy sports again, McPherson is quick to credit both United Way and including wheelchair basketball for the Alberta Northern Lights. The experiCanadian Paraplegic Association for changing his life. ence allowed him the opportunity to travel North America and become part “I’m certain that if it weren’t for the CPA and United Way,” of a community of people who, like McPherson, were learning to accept their he says, “I would not have had the same opportunities to physical disabilities through the power of sport. be successful.”
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Why We Give Back
There are as many ways to donate as there are reasons. Here are some lessons from the ﬁeld.
OVER 400 ORGANIZATIONS IN THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTOR PARTICIPATE IN UNITED WAY’S ANNUAL FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN.
That includes David Aplin Group and Credit Union Deposit Guarantee, two local small businesses that made a big impact with their successful campaigns.
David Aplin Group donation matching campaign Credit Union Deposit Guarantee potluck
DAVID APLIN GROUP
When a woman and her son visited the Edmonton ofﬁce of recruiting ﬁrm David Aplin Group, it was a memorable visit for the company’s employees. The struggling single mom was nearly homeless, but had recently returned to school and obtained a diploma thanks to support from United Way and its donors, like David Aplin Group. “She came to say thank you,” says David Aplin, CEO. For Aplin, the visit reafﬁrmed the difference his company’s support of United Way makes in people’s lives. “It was very heartwarming,” he says. Last year, David Aplin Group’s Edmonton ofﬁce of 32 employees raised $22,186, while the organization’s eight ofﬁces across Canada raised $55,558. Those are big numbers for a small business, no doubt helped by Aplin’s own involvement and contagious passion
for the cause. “You can trust United Way to put the money where it’s needed,” he says. David Aplin Group runs a donation matching campaign in each ofﬁce. “We make it clear that the company will match dollar for dollar what the employees give, in the city that they give,” Aplin says. Employee campaigns include a variety of special events, from bake sales to silent auctions to paying money to wear jeans throughout the week. “We try to get everybody involved in one way or another,” Aplin says. It’s an approach that works – last year’s companywide participation rate was 80 per cent and three branches reached 100 per cent. Aplin admits to just a small amount of bribery: If a branch hits its target participation rate, everyone gets an extra day off at Christmas. Takeaway: “We’re not just saying to our employees ‘you should do this.’ We’re saying, ‘we should do this’, and in that sense, we’re leading by example.” – David Aplin
CREDIT UNION DEPOSIT GUARANTEE
Credit Union Deposit Guarantee’s two-week employee campaign for United Way ends each year with a potluck lunch. The company’s 35 employees ditch the jeans they’ve
been wearing (part of a “be seen in jeans” fundraiser) and put on formal attire. “It’s a fun get-together,” says Erik Flakstad, manager, regulation and risk assessment and one of four employees who co-chaired last year’s campaign. It’s also a chance to share with everyone the money they raised – last year, that amount was $14,980. Such a gathering of employees also occurs throughout the rest of the campaign. Flakstad credits a “two-week campaign blitz” and strong corporate support for his company’s successful United Way campaign. “It’s a tradition. Every September employees know United Way is coming and we’re going to have lots of different events and ways to contribute funds,” Flakstad says. Last year, events included a rafﬂe, silent auction, wafﬂe breakfast and the daily sale of chai tea and biscotti. With an employee participation rate of 97 per cent, it’s clear Credit Union Deposit Guarantee’s campaign is a success. Takeaway: “What’s very successful for us is a number of fun activities in the two weeks – a two-week campaign blitz – and not bothering everyone throughout the year.” – Erik Flakstead
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l EADING EDGE
An Atypical Approach
Productivity improvements are more common in the manufacturing sector, but they’ve helped an Edmonton not-for-profit direct more time to their clients
by Michelle Lindstrom photo by buffy goodman
One plus One equals twO, right? Not when the Boys and Girls
Clubs (BGC) of Edmonton joined forces with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Edmonton and Area. The decision, to become a unified organization for children in and around the capital city, brought two organizations together and made them into one: Boys and Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters (BGCBBBS) of Edmonton and Area. When the idea formed to join BBBS with BGC, beefing up staff and processes at BBBS, managers had lean principles front-of-mind. Lean analyzes systems to find inefficiencies, an approach derived from Japanese company Toyota in the 1980s. While such productivity improvements are more common in the manufacturing
The efficiencies gained have allowed us to add more staff hours in order to serve more kids and better support the staff that do it.
sector, the organization’s leaders knew that lean principles, which strive to create more value with fewer resources, could benefit them, too. The not-for-profit organization, which receives funding from the United Way, also has a history with lean. It started when BBBS began its lean adventure in 2009 with a grant from
the Government of Alberta. The grant was awarded to hire a lean consultant, with the stipulation that the organization’s findings would be shared with other charities. And so they shared: about 50 Alberta agencies have since attended efficiency workshops run by former BBBS staff. Productivity improvements are increasingly a focus for many companies, but they are less common in the not-for-profit sector where the cost of hiring a consultant to help identify areas of improvement can be a difficult expense to justify. When Liz O’Neill (now the executive director of BGCBBBS) was executive director of BBBS, the purpose of her team’s lean grant was to get volunteers through the organization’s system faster. Focusing on that one area proved successful, meaning more of the organization could better serve its clients – children in the Capital Region. O’Neill is optimistic about the opportunities within the new organization. As an amalgamated agency, BGCBBBS received a new government grant for a lean consultant. The new not-for-profit’s goal is to integrate procedures of the two original organizations and better serve the needs of children in the community. “For many of the staff of the former BBBS agency, lean became part
of the culture. They don’t even talk about it in terms of, ‘Oh yes, this is a lean process.’ We created a framework of thinking, decision-making and problem-solving,” O’Neill says. After the July merge, former BGC staff received lean training to understand their BBBS co-worker’s constant push for efficiency. “The business community tells us that when an amalgamation is being done that you can expect three to five years of change,” O’Neill says. Those working at the not-for-profit wondered if that could be shortened to 12 to 16 months by using lean as a joiningtogether strategy. There is still plenty of work for the new organization to do, including combining the boards of directors, confirming expansion plans for spring break and summer programs and reallocating saved funds appropriately. In the meantime, though, O’Neill says the constant focus on lean throughout the amalgamation has produced tangible results. “The efficiencies gained have allowed us to add more staff hours in order to serve more kids and better support the staff that do it,” O’Neill says. O’Neill hopes lean principles will become embedded in the organization and practices of its staff, becoming “part of how we do our job.”
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The number of backpacks filled with supplies for students in need by United Way’s Tools for School program. School supplies are one way we are helping children with their academic success.
The percentage by which the number of homeless dropped in the last Homeless Count. A testament to the success of the Housing First model.
The number of calls fielded by 211 Information and Referral Service in 2010. 211 provides information on basic needs, employment needs, parenting support, counseling groups, health care, legal services and more.
THROUGH THE YEARS: Reg Basken has been involved with United Way since 1967.
For nearly 50 years, United Way has been a cause Reg Basken holds close
by MICHELLE LINDSTROM photo by MARIUSZ SIKORSKI
A RUMOUR AMONG THE STAFF OF UNITED WAY OF THE ALBERTA CAPITAL REGION is that if you can
name a volunteer task within the organization, Reg Basken has probably done it. And 74-yearold Basken humbly conﬁrms it. “Sometimes big involvement, sometimes little involvement,” he says. Passing on the passion of giving is important to Basken. He started a Basken Family Endowment Fund through a United Way organizational partnership. Each year, the foundation informs him of three potential charities that his fund could beneﬁt. He sends that information to his two children, ﬁve grandchildren and their spouses for input on who the recipient should be. That’s just one way he gives back today, but Basken has helped non-proﬁts as far back as the 1960s.
“I found out about United Way in Regina in 1963 when I was in the labour movement and the executive director of United Way was making a presentation about what they were,” he says. “It appeared that they had the same aims and objectives as I had as a union ofﬁcer – to improve the lives of people – and it clicked with me that I should be involved.” Basken began contributing ﬁnancially to United Way when he moved to Edmonton in 1967. In the 1970s he began to participate regularly on United Way committees, eventually becoming campaign deputy chair, campaign chair, vicechair of the board of directors and, in 1981, he was elected board president. Between 1984 and 2004, Basken’s involvement varied. Sometimes he donated money and other times he would liaise between United Way and labour unions, where his work included the role
of secretary treasurer and vicepresident of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada. Basken joined United Way’s board of directors again in 2004 and for the last decade he’s been on the campaign cabinet, which is his current United Way volunteer position. From decades’ worth of professional and volunteer experience, Basken learned how expansive a not-for-proﬁt’s role is within a community. He says the strong liaison between unions and United Way is useful and important. His full-time job and various United Way roles, not to mention volunteer work with other organizations, is a lot for one person. But Basken, who retired 13 years ago, doesn’t see it like that. “You just work it in,” he says. “It never was work. I haven’t worked a day in my life.”
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Building ConFident Futures
As part of EPCOR’s commitment to the communities we serve, we are proud to join in a financial literacy initiative with United Way of the Alberta Capital Region. Over the next five years, we’ll be helping to build strong foundations of financial knowledge that will not only lead to self-empowerment, but also a stronger community. To learn more, visit epcor.ca/community.