Calgary Herald

Generosity forged unexpected friendship­s


Nearly everyone in the city was touched by the flood in some way last June. But amid the devastatio­n, strong bonds were built between communitie­s and co-workers. Here are just two examples. CHILDREN’S COTTAGE When the Children’s Cottage playground was destroyed and the crisis nursery’s basement flooded by three metres of water, it was the first time in 27 years the Bridgeland facility had to be closed.

The flood was devastatin­g — everything was lost in the basement where staff offices, a boardroom, storage units, diapers and supplies were kept. But the support from existing partners and a large number of new ones stunned the organizati­on.

“Ayear later, as we look at it now, it was a time all Calgarians came together,” says Marisol Narvaez, manager of fund developmen­t and communicat­ions at the facility.

“Like a lot of organizati­ons, we were overwhelme­d by the generosity. We have many new friends of the Cottage.”

Narvaez cites Benjamin Moore Paints, IKEA and Cityline, which together refurbishe­d the basement with a new design including furnishing­s and paint.

As well, long-time partner Cenovus, along with Golden Acres and City TV, redid the backyard and installed new playground equipment.

Narvaez says more than 700 volunteers helped put the Children’s Cottage back together, including partner organizati­ons that funded facility operations while also donating to flood relief efforts.

Dan Thorburn, vice-president of grants and community initiative­s for the Calgary Foundation which set up the Flood Rebuilding Fund, says his organizati­on urged partners to “dig deeper” to support non-profits, while also helping with flood relief.

The foundation’s fund, started at the request of corporatio­ns such as Suncor that wanted an organizati­on to co-ordinate and manage rebuilding grant efforts, eventually reached more than $9 million. About $1.5 million remains for further work.

The foundation itself contribute­d $1 million and gathered a group of partners and organizati­ons to act as a grant approval group.

The money has gone to two streams: organizati­ons that experience­d increased demand on services during the flood, such as Inn from the Cold, which had to evacuate people from its shelter at the same time shelter needs increased, and new initiative­s created because of the flood. These new initiative­s include seniors evacuated from East Village homes without medication­s and transporta­tion who were helped by The Alex community health centre and the Kerby Centre.

“We left immediate disaster relief to organizati­ons like the Red Cross, insurance companies and government­s,” Thorburn says. “Our programs are designed for the next wave of needs, whether they were months or even years.”

Thorburn says the Flood Rebuilding Fund has had 2,900 contributi­ons from a mix of individual­s and corporatio­ns that gave everything from $20 to $1 million.

“It was phenomenal. We consider it an honour to have been chosen to do this.”

ATCO GROUP For ATCOand its employees, taking care of staff directly affected by the flood was the first priority.

“It was about our employees helping their colleagues,” says Shannon Ohama, manager of community investment at ATCO Group.

While the company did its 31 Days Of Caring program in the greater flood community, volunteeri­ng everywhere from High River and Turner Valley to the Siksika Nation and Calgary, the 19 flood-affected ATCO employees, some of whom lost everything, were a primary focus.

Under ATCO’s Family Flood Relief program, employees from High River and Calgary communitie­s near the Bow River such as Mission, Sunnyside and Elbow Park, were helped through direct financial aid and cleanup efforts from their colleagues.

A hard-goods donation drive provided employees with gift baskets — laundry baskets filled with everything from small kitchen appliances to towels and pillows. Two extra pallets of goods were also donated to NeighbourL­ink.

ATCOmatche­d employee donations, and fundraiser­s were held as far away as ATCO Australia. For the company and its employees, offering help during a disaster was not a new experience.

During the 2011 Slave Lake wildfires, 50 employees lost their homes and were helped by the company and fellow workers. This sponsor content was developed by the Calgary Herald’s Special Projects

Department in collaborat­ion with Calgary Economic Developmen­t for

commercial purposes.

 ??  ?? Marisol Narvaez with the Children’s Cottage says the organizati­on was overwhelme­d by the support after the flood, including a refurbishe­d backyard and new playground equipment.
Marisol Narvaez with the Children’s Cottage says the organizati­on was overwhelme­d by the support after the flood, including a refurbishe­d backyard and new playground equipment.

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