When a young Holly James walked downstairs in her 1970s childhood home in Wainwright, Alberta, she wasn’t surprised to see her mother had prepared beds for two teenage girls she’d never met before.
James’ mother had taken the bus to Edmonton to run an errand and encountered the girls, troubled and penniless, on her way home. As it often went, her mother’s genuine concern and natural instinct was to offer temporary refuge in their home. James looks back on those days and knows her mother’s selfless acts had a tremendous impact on her growing up.
“My parents would never hesitate to help a struggling stranger, friend, or family member,” she recalls. “They always demonstrated what good can come from helping someone in need.”
James, who now works at the AER’s field centre in Wainwright as the manager of field operations, has carried her parents’ values forward. For the last eight years, she has volunteered as Wainwright’s main representative in the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER’s) annual United Way workplace campaign.
Building a Community
Recognized across Canada, United Way is a network of nonprofit organizations that collect financial donations to fund partners, government, and community organizations. Collectively, they address social issues like poverty and education to support people and communities.
“It’s inspiring to see so many of us recognize the importance of helping others and improving the communities we live in.”- Holly James, manager of field operations
The AER’s annual campaign strives to build community among staff while raising money for eight United Way chapters across Alberta. Throughout the year, hundreds of dedicated employees like James rally up for the cause—they volunteer their time, set goals, and fundraise thousands of dollars in a bounty of creative ways. Planned events in years past have included contests, potlucks, games, and sporting events.
“My favourite part of the AER’s campaign is watching our staff not only participate, but look for ways to get involved,” James says. “It’s inspiring to see so many of us recognize the importance of helping others and improving the communities we live in.”
A Sense of Pride
Outside of the United Way campaign, AER staff pursue an array of initiatives to give back. Examples include group trips to food banks and homeless shelters, annual toy drives, and landscaping projects. On the environmental side sits the AER’s Green Team, which aims to clean up and better the planet through sustainability and green practices. The team regularly plans roadside and river cleanups, hosts zero-waste events, and motivates AER staff to join the national Commuter Challenge by walking, biking, or taking transit to work.
“We want to be recognized for excellence in sustainable development, so it makes sense that we lead by example and find ways to reduce our own environmental footprint,” says Doug Townsend, vice president of infrastructure and business services and executive sponsor of the AER’s green team.
“I’m proud to see our people want to be a part of the solution by creating awareness and finding opportunities to make a positive difference,” he adds.
Regardless of how someone gives back to their community, one truth prevails: even the smallest of thoughtful acts—social, financial, or environmental—can go a long way to inspire anyone, or any place to reach its full potential.
By discovering ways to support their communities, AER staff continue to help transform “can’t” into “can,” and provide hope and positive change where it is needed.
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