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Best Workplace for Volunteerism and Community Involvement

When employees are engaged at work, they give back to the world around them. SAIT challenges their employees to better themselves through work, and charitable endeavours

Oct 28, 2016

by Alberta Venture Staff

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SAIT employees Jim Szautner, Maria Gan-Carag, Lindsay Calder and Wayne Gee
Photo Cooper & O’Hara

Education is one of the most selfless careers one can pursue, so it makes sense that an educational institution would win in the volunteerism category, especially one as central to its community as the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). “SAIT is weaved into the community,” says Chris Gerritsen, spokesperson for SAIT. “We’ve been around for more than 100 years now, so it comes naturally.”

“The great thing about SAIT is you always have this incredible resource: your colleagues.” – Richard Stroobant, instructor

There’s a bevy of initiatives and programs that SAIT staff participate in or that SAIT lends resources to, including the FIRST Robotics competition, the Christmas Adopt-a-­Student-Family initiative and Skills ­Canada competitions (two SAIT

students will compete in Dubai in 2017). And the institute is quick to help out with fundraising or charity work: In the summer of 2015, SAIT employees donated $7,500 to students affected by the civil war in Yemen. The institute takes part in food drives for veterans – last year, its 12th involved with the initiative, SAIT filled an entire truck with donations – and raises funds for United Way. Its Employee Volunteer Crew donates time to the Calgary Food Bank, and SAIT takes part in the Calgary Corporate Challenge, in which organizations raise money for charity through Olympic-style events. Where does this spirit come from? “It’s important to work for an organization with heart,” Gerritsen says. “You want to know that what you’re doing matters, and that dovetails into a healthy spirit of giving.”

But SAIT also does things a bit differently when it comes to giving. For its centennial this year, it’s undertaking the 100 Projects Project, where the school encourages students and faculty to pursue their choice of charitable endeavour, with the ultimate aim of delivering 100 charitable projects. One employee spearheaded a project with Accessible Housing Calgary to make businesses more wheelchair-accessible; another knitted more than 100 items for people in need. “It’s all about working for an organization that supports the types of causes you believe in,” Gerritsen says.

The Finalists

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Fluid Life, Edmonton
For 23 years, Fluid Life has supported Chrysalis, a non-profit supporting adults with disabilities. Fluid Life now employs nine people associated with Chrysalis.

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Lakeland Credit Union, Bonnyville
Each year, at least 1.5 per cent of Lakeland’s pre-tax profit goes to charity. After 100 hours of volunteer hours, staff can get an extra week of paid vacation.

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Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt, Calgary
Osler’s employees are encouraged to volunteer during business hours and the company hosts an intranet page to pair lawyers and staff with community agencies.

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Rogers Insurance, Calgary
Winner of the Best Overall, 100-750 Employees category, Rogers employees choose a charity of choice for a three-year period and the company matches employees’ contributions.