LARRY GENDRON HAS FOUND A WAY to make his remote work site feel more like a home—and raise funds for the less fortunate at the same time.
Larry works as a skilled labourer at a waste-water treatment plant for North America Const. Ltd. (NAC) in Manitoba, many kilometres away from his family in northern Ontario. But rather than let loneliness and isolation get to him, he began a unique fundraising initiative with the full support of his fellow Local 152 members and NAC.
I sat down with Larry and asked him how he helps, why he helps, and the impact fundraising can have on the workplace.
Tell me about your fundraising initiatives at your work sites.
It started when I was working at a waste-water treatment plant in Pembroke, Ontario. There was a gentleman close to the site who let us park on his lawn for free while we were working at the plant. I took it upon myself to thank him with a few bottles of wine.
Then at a plant in Ottawa, some of us found out about a family who was in need. The employees of NAC all got together and donated 14 boxes of food to this family for Christmas.
The following year, NAC took it upon themselves to get on board with us. They started a company-wide competition to see who could bring in the most amount of food for charity.
What charities do you donate to?
Our number one charity is the Winnipeg Food Bank, but I’ll let the guys pick the second one. Last year, it was the Indian Metis Friendship Centre of Winnipeg, and this year it was the Winnipeg Harvest—a not-for-profit community-based organization that runs a food distribution and training centre.
How do you raise money?
I have a little “store” here on site where I sell pop, chips, meals, toques, stuff like that, so the guys don’t have to go off site to get it. And however much I raise, NAC will match it dollar for dollar.
We were able to give the Winnipeg Harvest $8,000, and we gave another $8,000 to Siloam Mission in Winnipeg. With NAC matching dollar for dollar, we raised a total of $16,000 for charity.
I also do a couple of raffles. This year at our NAC Christmas party, we held a raffle and we were able to get $2,500 in groceries for the food banks.
Why do you have such a passion for fundraising for the less fortunate?
Growing up, my father would always tell us that charity begins at home. A lot of our friends and neighbours back then were in need, and my dad would always welcome them for supper and say, “There’s always an extra seat at the table.” He told us to never let someone you know go hungry—especially at Christmas time.
I tell my coworkers at meetings that there’s always someone less fortunate, and it’s our responsibility to take care of our neighbour. Especially children. Adults can go maybe two or three days without food, but a child cannot. I have two kids, ten grandkids, and six great-grandkids, and I’d never want any of them to go without food.
I tell the guys on site, hopefully you never have to use the food bank yourself. I did once, and when my dad found out, he was very upset. He asked me why I didn’t ask him first. I said that I wanted to see what it was like on the other side.
How do you run your store on site?
I get up early every morning and set up my little store by 6 a.m. so that it’s ready to go before all the guys arrive on site. It gets me going in the morning, and gives me something to look forward to when I wake up.
Your store is always well-stocked. How often do you go shopping for supplies?
Every day. Seven days a week. I always try to find good bargains and look through all the flyers for Sobeys, Walmart, and Giant Tiger for the best deals. Then I go and stock up every day.
Sometimes, the cashiers at these stores are curious about why I’m buying so much stuff and ask if I’m reselling it. It gives me an opportunity to explain what I’m doing, and they all think it’s such a great idea. Walmart even got on board this year and donated free bags for all our food-drive groceries, which we are very grateful for.
How has the intense fundraising initiatives affected your workplace?
It improves morale. At the Christmas party, the guys told me afterward that it was nice to be able to laugh and joke with each other but also to raise money for those less fortunate.
The guys on site love my little store. When they all come in in the morning, they ask me what’s on the menu, and will you stock this, and will you stock that. The guys here are really glad to have hot meals and snacks on hand, too.
There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, and worry about what the world is going to look like for future generations. What would you say as an encouragement?
Just try to get up every day and make a difference. Always try to do things that make you happy, but also make others happy too. You’re going to have good days and bad days, so just do your best.
Food for Thought
Larry’s charity of choice—the Winnipeg Harvest Food Bank—is part of the larger Food Banks Canada. Approximately 13 percent of Canadians live in a state of food insecurity. Here are more sobering facts on hunger and food bank usage in Canada.
What Is Food Insecurity?
A person or family is food insecure when they
- Worry they won’t be able to afford enough food
- Eat unhealthy food because they can’t afford anything better
- Skip meals because they are unable to purchase enough food
Food Banks and Hunger in Canada Fast Facts
22% of those who access food banks come from lone- parent households, but only 10% of all Canadian households are lone-parent households.
44% of those helped by food banks are unattached individuals, but only 28% of all Canadian households are made up of unattached individuals.
13% of people helped by food banks are immigrants and refugees.
Low income is the root cause of hunger in Canada.
860,000 people turn to food banks for help each month.
⅓ are children and youth.
So you want to be an extreme couponer? You may have to move to the US. While Canadians can save big on their shopping by perusing flyers and using coupons, sadly, your coupons won’t go nearly as far as they do south of the border.
Americans take couponing to the extreme. The competition between grocery stores in the US is much more intense, so retailers offer a host of promotional strategies that Canadian stores don’t. These include combining coupons, coupon stacking (using two separate coupons for one item), and double coupons (when a store takes your coupon and doubles the value). Some shoppers even work the system so that they’re essentially paid to take items from the store, receiving credits, points, and vouchers that exceed the value of the items they’ve purchased.
Unless you plan on moving to the US, shopping experts recommend Canadian couponers use apps such as Flipp to help you find deals, make a shopping list, and save at the store.
Sources: moneysense.ca, moneycrashers.com, maplemoney.com