Calgarians make a better community through giving

Post Date: Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Mayor Nenshi - Colour-7164While I usually just write a monthly column in the Calgary Herald, I annually write a special column in support of the Herald's Christmas Fund. Here is the full version of the story which ran on December 26, 2011:

Over the past year, I have been touched by the generosity of Calgarians - bearing witness to many acts of giving: of time and money with acts both big and small.

I have not, however, been surprised. Long before being elected mayor, I knew that Calgarians have always reached out to help those in need.

Some 85 per cent of us give to charity every year, and our rates of volunteerism are very high.

And these acts build a better community.

That's why, earlier this autumn, we launched 3 Things for Calgary (www.3thingsforcalgary.ca). It's a simple program that asks Calgarians to do three things, big or small, for their community over the course of this winter. Perhaps even more important, we want people to share their three things and encourage at least three other people to do three things of their own. By the time the tulips come up, we could have three million acts of community building, which will make Calgary a much better place to live and work.

Of course, this does not mean that government is reneging on our responsibilities. In fact, your city government takes the issue of poverty very seriously, even though, strictly speaking, it is not a municipal government responsibility. Earlier this year, council started the Calgary Poverty Reduction Initiative, for which I have high hopes. For the first time, we are bringing together Calgarians from all walks of life to have a serious discussion about poverty in the city. We need to determine how we can each do a better job in sharing opportunity with all of our fellow citizens.

But governments cannot do it alone. We need to give our neighbours a helping hand in times of need. And that's why I encourage you to give to the Calgary Herald Christmas Fund - it can even be one of your three things! As I have often said, it's important to give, but it is as important to give well.

The Christmas Fund is a carefully curated project that includes some of the very best charitable organizations in Calgary. The dozen agencies include some well-known ones, such as Inn From the Cold and the Drop-In Centre, along with some with which you may not be as familiar, such as Fresh Start or 1835 House.

What they have in common is that they are all effective in their fields, and they are all doing incredible work. From Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids (which I have often called one of the most innovative organizations in Calgary) to the YWCA (with its Sherriff King Home that is there at the most difficult time in its clients’ lives) each organization tirelessly works with people to help them out of poverty, to lift them from addiction, to shelter them from violence and abuse.

It’s worth remembering that, even while many Calgarians have had a good year, many have not. The growth in demand for our Food Bank, for example, was the second-highest in Canada this year, and it’s only with the generosity of Calgarians that the Food Bank was able to meet that demand.

I was at an event sponsored by Calgary Transit last month, raising money for the Food Bank at a grocery store in an upscale neighbourhood. A couple of the cashiers at the store came out to say hello, and mentioned that they had been former Food Bank clients. More than one shopper told me that they had used the Food Bank when they needed it as well.

Indeed, most Food Bank clients only use the service two or three times in their lives. But it’s critical that the service be there those two or three times when it is really needed.

And helping make sure that service is there is one act to help build our community. Please give what you can. Fortunately, I know you will—we are Calgarian after all.

Thank you for all you do and have done to make Calgary better this year. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and best wishes for the holiday season to you and to your families.

- Mayor Naheed Nenshi