Every September, more than 1,500 people from Calgary and area march down Stephen Avenue in support of United Way and its partner agencies. The annual event, which brings together individuals from corporate Calgary, academia, government, and the social sector, is made possible by the generosity of Pembina Pipeline Corporation.
Over the last 30 years, Pembina and its employees have donated thousands of volunteer hours and over $21 million to support United Way’s work in the community. Darren Marine, Vice President of Pembina’s Transmission Pipelines Unit and co-chair of Pembina’s 2019 United Way campaign, says giving back is ingrained in the company’s culture.
“It’s just a part of our DNA,” says Marine. “Pembina employees truly believe they need to give back to the communities we work and live in.”
Bob Jones, Pembina’s Vice President of the Marketing Business Unit and campaign co-chair, says most Pembina employees are humbled by the organization’s success and feel it is their responsibility to help those who may be struggling.
“Most of our employees feel fortunate to be part of an organization that is thriving. Volunteering and giving back is just something we do,” he says.
In 2017, Pembina came on board as an Innovator’s Circle member for United Way’s Community Hubs Initiative, investing $500,000 over a three-year period to help strengthen neighbourhoods across Calgary. Since its inception, the initiative has launched six Community Hubs in five neighbourhoods, serving a catchment area of more than 200,000 Calgarians from 47 different communities.
It’s one thing to support the campaign financially, but it’s another to see the lives of those who use the supports. It reminds me that we all share the same streets, and allows me to see those streets through another person’s eyes. – Bob Jones
Jones says seeing the impact of their investment first-hand is a humbling experience, one he and his colleagues are grateful for.
“It’s one thing to support the campaign financially, but it’s another to see the lives of those who use the supports,” he explains. “It reminds me that we all share the same streets, and allows me to see those streets through another person’s eyes. It is easy to be myopic, to focus on our day-to-day and our business, and this forces you to look at it from a different lens. It’s humbling.”
Marine agrees. “Sometimes we lose sight of what having a really bad day means. When we, gainfully employed members of society, have a bad day it’s different than someone who’s in need of United Way supports and services. It’s important to recognize that there is a need in the community 365 days of the year.”
Pembina’s commitment to the communities it operates in goes beyond their United Way campaign. In 2018, the corporation invested $7.5 million, logging in over 5,500 volunteer hours to create positive impact from the coast of British Columbia to Lake Huron in Ontario. Jones explains the company strives to be the neighbour of choice within the communities Pembina operates in, so investing in said communities is a matter of common sense.
“The communities we work in are the communities we live and do business in. We want to feel connected to those communities, and be welcomed, and you can’t do that from the sidelines. It’s hard to imagine trying to be an active business and not integrating with the communities we are in,” he says.
To double its impact in Calgary and area, Pembina offers a corporate match program for its employees, retirees, and board of directors, matching their donation dollar-for-dollar. The organization supports future leaders through the Gen Next program, and runs a best practice campaign, with high executive support, multiple team building and fundraising events, and two rotating co-chairs each year.
When asked to lead Pembina’s 2019 United Way campaign, Marine and Jones jumped at the chance. Both volunteer and donate every year, so chairing seemed to be the next logical step. By campaign’s end, more than 300 employees volunteered over 1,100 hours in the community, helping raise $3.8 million to support Calgarians in need.
At Pembina, we have a stand to make the communities we work and live in better—to leave them better off than when we got there. – Darren Marine
According to Marine and Jones, the campaign’s successes are thanks to the many employees who step up to participate.
“For Darren and me, it was pretty easy to be the face of the campaign, but really it was the people who were volunteering and organizing the events and activities that deserve the credit,” says Jones.Marine agrees. “All the credit goes out to the volunteers and all the folks that chair the different events we’ve had. They did all the heavy lifting and they deserve all the credit.”
The co-chairs say the campaign provides a great opportunity for team building, which goes a long way to strengthening relationships within the organization, evoking a sense of belonging, and increasing overall productivity. According to Marine, team building events also provide a glimpse of the calibre of people they have within their organization.
“Team building activities are where I get to see our future leaders. I see who is volunteering, how they are interacting with their co-workers, and in what way they are learning about the need in the community. It also gives people a chance to learn more about themselves as leaders,” he says.
“When we go out together as a team, we’re building relationships with each other, and not just the communities we support. It allows us to connect and do something in a different way. I would encourage other companies to do the same,” adds Jones.
When asked what advice he may have for other donors and corporations that want to grow their investment and impact in the community, Marine says it comes down to making a stand.
“Figure out what you stand for, and what you want to invest in, what’s important to the business and individual employees. At Pembina, we have a stand to make the communities we work and live in better—to leave them better off than when we got there. That’s all.”