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Best Workplaces 2011: Best Workplace for Volunteerism and Community Involvement

May 1, 2011

Best Workplace for Volunteerism and Community Involvement

FirstEnergy Capital Corp.

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It’s one thing to give back when times are good. It’s quite another to do it regardless of the economic fortunes of the day, and all the more so in a province as prone to booms and busts as Alberta. But while some organizations might treat fundraising campaigns, volunteer commitments and other forms of community-minded activity as mere icing on the corporate cake, Calgary’s FirstEnergy Capital regards them as an integral part of the basic mix.

Seventeen years ago, when the company’s business plan was being formulated by its founders, it was decided that 2.5 per cent of gross profits would be allocated to charity. They’ve never wavered. “We apply that to charities in good markets, bad markets, bear markets, bull markets; it doesn’t matter,” says CEO Jim Davidson. “We don’t change the viewpoint. It’s ingrained in our system and it’s become, as a result of that, part of our corporate culture and part of our DNA.”

In those 17 years, FirstEnergy has donated more than $8 million to 500-plus charities and community organizations. But the trickle-down effect of that commitment to charity – the DNA – has been even more profound. Over that same period, the company’s senior managers and staff have donated in excess of $24 million to a variety of personal causes and organizations. Here are just a few of the company’s champions of charity.

Jim Davidson, CEO
It all starts at the top at FirstEnergy, where CEO Jim Davidson devotes both time and energy to his causes of choice. One of his favourite charities is the Calgary Humane Society, where he has served on the board of directors since 2006. He recently co-chaired a successful capital campaign that delivered a new home for the organization and the animals under its care.

Davidson’s devotion to animals is, he says, a fairly recent and entirely unexpected development that all began with a certain flat-coated retriever. “I protested heavily against getting [it] with my wife for five years until she finally broke me down,” he says. “Two weeks after the dog entered my life, I was totally head-over-heels in love with it, and so I became more attuned to animals and the troubles that many of them have.”

Davidson also personally donated $2 million to the Edge School for Athletes, a Calgary private school that combines high-level athletic performance with a strong commitment to educational achievement. Davidson wanted to provide today’s young athletes with a place where athletic and intellectual growth could take place side by side, something that didn’t exist when he was coming up through the system as a Junior A hockey player. “At that point in time, education was not promoted when you were on the fast track in sports. It was almost a hindrance, or viewed as a hindrance, and I obviously didn’t agree with that.”

Not one to rest on his laurels, Davidson is already hard at work in his role as chairman of the fundraising committee on another ambitious campaign, which see a $50-million “linear park” built around Calgary. “This is going to be a tough one,” he says, “but I think we’ll be successful longer-term. It’s going to take a while to get it done.”

J Trent Boehm, Managing Director, Institutional Sales
Trent Boehm is the captain of the FirstEnergy Roadrockets, a cycling team that participates annually in the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer in support of the Alberta Cancer Foundation. In 2010, Trent and his wife, Angela, personally raised $80,000, while Trent’s team managed a total of $161,000. Trent has even loftier goals for the Roadrockets in 2011: $300,000.

J William Lacey, Managing Director, Institutional Research
Since 2005, William Lacey has run the Harvest Half Marathon and, in the process, has raised closed to $90,000. As well, along with FirstEnergy, Lacey has helped to put in place much of the future funding requirements for Jamie’s Preschool, a Calgary centre that provides one of the only early childhood education programs for children with cancer, blood disorders and other critical illnesses.

J Cody Kwong,Vice-President, Institutional Research
There’s charitable work, and then there’s Cody Kwong’s annual Christmas tradition. Since 2006, Kwong has volunteered to play Santa for Discovery House, a non-profit organization that focuses on preventing
violence in the home and protecting vulnerable women and children. It’s paid off handsomely for the charity, as Kwong’s
Kris Kringle act has raised more than $95,000 so far.

J Martin Molyneaux, Founding Member/Managing Director
Martin Molyneaux has been involved with the Ride for Juvenile Diabetes for more than a decade. So far, he’s managed to raise a staggering $310,000 for the cause, with more surely to come.

J Michael Dunn, Research Analyst
Along with his wife, Dunn participated in the 2010 Multiple Miles for Myeloma, an eight-kilometre run that benefits multiple myeloma research. Together, they raised $6,000.

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