This year we’re giving volunteers an extra cheers - whether that’s standing outside and cheering front-line workers at 7 p.m. every evening, sharing a message of hope in your window or posting an image of clapping hands on social media as an act of solidarity. For us at Suncor, it’s also that time of year when we get to celebrate five outstanding employees who are making a serious impact through volunteerism.
Each year, five employees are recognized for going above and beyond in their community, volunteering their expertise, personal time and financial contributions in a meaningful way throughout the year. Each SunCares Changemaker gets to identify a community organization of choice to receive a one-time donation of $20,000 from Suncor or the Suncor Energy Foundation. In its second year, the SunCares Changemakers program brought in many inspiring nominations from across the company.
Here are our 2020 SunCares Changemakers:
Dean Kennedy, Edmonton
$20,000 to Strathcona County Robotics Association
Dean Kennedy, pipeline maintenance operator, is a passionate advocate of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and robotics. He is the president of the Strathcona County Robotics Association (SCRA), an organization that uses robotics-based programs to engage students in STEM in a fun and explorative environment, and encourage them to pursue education and careers in STEM related fields. Dean is also the head coach of the organization’s First Tech Challenge Cyber Eagles. Last year, the Cyber Eagles were one of two teams from Canada who qualified for the world competition in Houston.
“The SCRA was formed by several passionate parents who recognize the impact that science, technology, engineering and math will have on their children,” says Dean. To further its impact, the SCRA partners with the Boys and Girls Club and Scouts Canada to host robotics and STEM camp days. “This donation will help us expand the SCRA’s programming and cover material and equipment costs for communities and youth who may have limited opportunities to explore robotics and science in a meaningful or fun way.”
Karim Kaba, Calgary
$20,000 to the Multi Generational Housing and Community Centre
On top of his day job as project controls manager, Karim Kaba is an active volunteer for the Aga Khan Foundation and has led the design, procurement and construction for a new multi-generational living housing and community centre in Calgary. All aspects of the centre are research based and prioritize elders feeling cared for and youth to be inspired. The care facility offers different levels of elder care as required, an early childhood education centre, subsidized housing for families, knowledge-transfer kitchens, manicured gardens, an aquarium and venues for events and youth programming. Karim spent a lot of time researching best practices in senior care globally to create a centre of excellence ready to meet the changing and challenging needs of today’s aging population. The success of this project has inspired five additional facilities across Canada based on the Calgary model.
“I’m very grateful to award this donation to a charity very close to my heart,” says Karim. “This is very timely as COVID-19 has hit senior living residences across Canada and PPE supply costs and other costs have skyrocketed.” See what residents are saying about the facility here!
Melanie Au, Mississauga
$10,000 to the Sharing Place
$10,000 to the Scott Mission
Melanie Au, director of digital product management, downstream, approaches everything she does from a place of empathy. She holds various volunteer roles that greatly impact individuals. She is a board member for the Scott Mission, an organization that provides essential care to those in need of shelter, meals and clothing. As the fundraising coordinator for the High Park Refugee Committee, Melanie helped raise over $20,000 required to bring two refugees from Sudan to Canada. To ensure a warm welcome, Melanie and her sponsor furnished the couple’s new apartment.
Melanie also spends many hours with her family, preparing and serving meals at the Sharing Place in Toronto. She is able to connect, learn and understand the needs of the clients to bring back to her other roles for greater impact. With an operational excellence mindset, Melanie identified inefficiencies in the meal service program and implemented a weekly meal schedule to share with 100+ volunteers on a monthly basis. This has led to overall higher volunteer participation and an improved volunteer experience.
“I am honoured to be selected and proud to work for a company that truly demonstrates its purpose for caring for each other,” says Melanie. “Two organizations I volunteer with have seen a steady increase in need from the community since COVID-19 - this significant donation will go a long way to help those in our city who are most severely impacted by poverty.”
Naseem Abdo, Fort McMurray
$7,000 to the Wood Buffalo Food Bank Association
$6,500 to the Northern Lights Health Foundation
$6,500 to the Markaz-Ul-Islam Congregation of Fort McMurray
Until recently, Naseem Abdo, quality assurance inspections lead, volunteered on the board for the Markaz Ul Islam since 2017. Throughout this time, Naseem organized a number of annual fundraisers, food and clothing drives and cultural awareness events that have strengthened the compassion, unity and understanding in the Fort McMurray community. In addition to his work with the board, Naseem spends a lot of time mentoring and coaching youth in Fort McMurray. One example is a breakfast program he started for high school-aged youth during the winter. The program provides a safe place for youth to ask questions, share concerns and learn about the importance of caring for community.
“The most important thing for me is helping those in need and promoting unity and understanding,” says Naseem. “I’d like to recognize all the volunteers who have helped strengthen the community at large by running programs and events throughout the years. I couldn’t have done this without them.”
Ed Ma, Calgary
$10,000 to ProBono Law Alberta
$10,000 to the Calgary Legal Guidance Society
Ed Ma, senior strategy advisor, climate and energy policy, is a long-time volunteer (31 years and counting!) with Calgary Legal Guidance and ProBono Law Alberta. Some notable examples of Ed’s tenure include the development of an immigration law clinic, launching Alberta’s first and only pro bono access to justice program for Indigenous Peoples, providing free summary advice clinics and mentoring new board chairs and board members. Ed has also played a pivotal role in the development of a sustainable pro bono initiative in Wood Buffalo. ProBono Law provided pop-up legal clinics from 2013 to 2015, developed legal resources and coordinated a Dial-a-Lawyer event to help those impacted by the 2016 wildfires and launched a Fort McMurry pro bono community legal clinic in 2018. All of these programs serve hundreds of people experiencing poverty, homelessness, discrimination and family violence.
“I am very grateful to be selected – this donation will reach deep and far for these small but effective organizations,” says Ed. “Because of COVID-19, we have seen a surge in need for legal advice including employment law for those laid off, landlord tenant law due to arrears in rent payment and eviction notices, elder law in response to outbreaks in long-term care facilities and more.”