It’s hard to remember what life was like before March 2020. What started off as a series of news stories about a virus plaguing parts of the world became a very real problem in our own backyards. Before we knew it, there were new protocols, health guidelines and restrictions to follow, and the line between work and home became too blurred to see where one job ended and the other began.

No one felt this home/work life imbalance more than the people who care for others. At charitable organizations, staff were struggling with greater demands for their services with fewer donations to keep the doors open. And outside of formal organizations, family caregivers—those who care for a family member, friend or loved one who is experiencing a significant mental or physical health challenge—had to add a pandemic to their already heavy load. 

Amid the pandemic, Petro-Canada’s (a Suncor company) CareMakers Foundation officially launched in 2020, joining forces with the Suncor Energy Foundation (SEF) to support communities across the country. 

The focus and purpose of the two foundations are complementary and give Suncor the opportunity to continue to broaden its reach of care and deepen its community involvement and impact. 

What’s the difference?

While SEF and the CareMakers Foundation have a lot in common, namely that they both aim to support communities, the two foundations are fundamentally different. 

SEF was established in 1998 as a private, charitable foundation to mange Suncor’s philanthropic activities and relies entirely on Suncor donations to do its work. Today, the foundation has three focus areas: community presence (supporting causes in communities where we operate, and those that employees care about), social innovation (programs for systemic change), and providing donations to other organizations that support Indigenous Peoples, community resilience and energy future. 

SEF programs and donations often focus on long-term opportunities to address some of society’s most challenging issues. The foundation partners with a range of organizations and individuals to do this, from Indigenous youth to post-secondary institutions to social sector organizations in communities where Suncor operates. These diverse relationships help SEF donations have meaningful impact. 

Whereas the CareMakers Foundation is a public charitable foundation with a very specific dedication: supporting caregivers. 
“Caregivers are the backbone of our country, and the current pandemic in many ways exacerbated the issues that family caregivers face,” says Leila Fenc, executive director, Petro-Canada CareMakers Foundation. “We know this issue is largely unseen, and we have the ability to shine a light on caregiving at a time when caring is more essential than it has ever been.”   

The CareMakers Foundation has been set up as a public foundation, which means it can receive funding through donations from the public along with continued support from Suncor. 

Another characteristic the two foundations share is that each foundation has a Board of Directors that includes Suncor representation. 
The SEF board is made up of members from Suncor’s executive leadership team and VP-level leaders, who also receive input and advice from an Indigenous youth advisory council. 

Like the SEF Board of Directors, the CareMakers Foundation’s board is made up of Suncor leaders, but also includes external community members. 

With the different purposes, functions and operations, Suncor’s two foundations serve unique needs. However, their commitment to caring for people and communities is worth doubling the effort not only when times are tough, but to make the good times better.