Alberta economists declared the province’s recession over almost two years ago. Despite this, its impact is still being felt by many people living in Calgary and area who have yet to recover from the financial hit they sustained in the worst downturn the province has seen in decades.
An estimated 130,000 people lost their jobs—their savings accounts depleted and their EI benefits exhausted. Many have had to sell their homes or move out of the province in search of work. But for those left behind, a safety net built by local agencies, companies, and government provided, and continues to provide, a much-needed and welcome lifeline.
It’s no secret that people living in Calgary and the surrounding area are generous—both with their time and money. When the Bow and Elbow rivers overflowed their banks in June 2013, people sprang to action to help those impacted by the flood. When the massive wildfire in Fort McMurray, a town more than 700 kilometres away, tore through the northeastern Alberta community forcing more than 80,000 people to flee their homes, Calgarians sent donations and offered shelter to complete strangers. And when the recession lingered, and the office buildings in downtown Calgary slowly started emptying out, community members, agencies, and corporations once again stepped up to help those struggling to make ends meet.
To most of us who live in this southern part of the province, corporate Calgary doesn’t just represent a paycheque. It represents a community of people that always finds a way to take care of others, no questions asked.
Michael Crothers, Shell Canada president and country chair, says the 2015-2016 recession and Shell’s dramatically shifting portfolio forced the company to let go of 4,000 employees. He admits it was a challenging time for company morale, and those lucky enough to retain their jobs struggled. However, despite a large number of people transitioning out of the company, Shell sustained the highest per capita donations in 2018, with the company raising over $4.4 million nationally through local United Way campaigns. Crothers attributes this to the sense of community they’ve built within their company—but also to the employees who never waver in their commitment to helping others.
“We have a belief that we need to contribute to the communities where we work and live. We know we need to help deal with the challenges those communities face, and do our part as corporate citizens to support the people living in those communities,” he says.
Crothers and his staff aren’t the only ones who share this sentiment.
TD Securities’ Calgary office rallied around its United Way campaign in 2018, raising an estimated $25,000 more than the previous year. Alec Clark, managing director and head of energy investment banking for Canada, says he doesn’t have a hard time inspiring staff to donate time and resources to their community.
“We know we have a responsibility, as members of the community, to give back. You can’t live on the peripheral, you have to engage with the community. This is something we take very seriously at TD, and to be honest, it comes very naturally to our staff. We don’t have any problems or challenges in getting people to give back. We’ve seen both our participation rates and donation rates go up.”
Whether through volunteerism or monetary donations, corporate Calgary continues investing in the community, regardless of the current state of the economy. Last year alone, more than 40,000 Calgarians supported United Way by generously donating over 500,000 volunteer hours to help those less fortunate than themselves. Shell Canada Ltd. and TD Securities employees count towards that total, with both companies offering a myriad of volunteer opportunities to their staff through United Way partner agencies.
Clark says his staff are fast to sign up for opportunities to do local good, especially through United Way’s Day of Caring® activities, which offer a way for employees to team up and get involved in the community by directly assisting a local agency. According to him, the company gets “more people signing up than what we have spots for.”
“People know they have to support their fellow Calgarians; they know they have to give back,” he says.
Crothers says Shell employees are no different. “[Giving back] is so ingrained in our people. You see that commitment year after year, and it’s very humbling as a leader to experience that. When you think about the highs and lows people go through, they are just so generous, and they truly want to give back.”
“As Albertans, we believe that companies and social agencies can work together with government to solve the social issues impacting our community. Calgarians looking after Calgarians is a very powerful social contract, and it really makes a difference to the sense of community we have in this city.”
“How does this affect our day-to-day quality of life? It’s hard to assess, but I know—having lived in many other cities—that Calgary is a special place.”
For more examples of how corporate Calgary keeps stepping up to the plate, read here.