By Theresa Wells
It is that season in the Wood Buffalo region again. The season of falling temperatures, rain that turns into snowflakes falling lazily from the sky…and a sharp surge in the spirit of generosity, remarkable even in a community known for our philanthropy.
Known as the most giving community per capita in Canada based on our incredible United Way contributions, the generosity does not end there. From the annual food drive for the Wood Buffalo Food Bank to Santas Anonymous, this season can only be seen as the giving season in our community.
There are galas and banquets and events galore, all designed to raise funds for our social profit organizations. These glittering, sparkling events attract residents to celebrate and enjoy fine food and posh atmosphere, never forgetting for a moment that these are designed to ensure our local social profit organizations can continue to operate year round.
There are also events, such as the Girls Inc of Northern Alberta Zombie Run and the Centre of Hope KD Gala that truly put the “fun” in fundraising, attracting people with zombies in the first case and an entire buffet based on various recipes using Kraft Dinner in the second.
From the very swankiest gala to the smallest event, though, all of these are focused on exactly one thing: building strength and resiliency in the organizations in our community who serve those in need. They form the backbone of a compassionate and just society, providing a variety of services and programs to those who need them the most in our communities.
We are an incredibly giving community all year round, without a doubt. As we head towards the holiday season, though, this spirit seems to only increase in intensity. It starts as a small flame in the late summer, bursting into a roaring fire by the time Christmas has arrived. I have watched it in awe now for the last thirteen years, each year more amazed than the last as the spirit never falters or wanes or lessens.
There have been times over those years when things in this region were uncertain – when the price of oil was low, or when there was uncertainty or instability in the national economy. Those rough patches were worrisome for us all, but perhaps even more so for the organizations that rely on philanthropy for their ability to continue to do what they do to improve the quality of life of those in need. What I noted, though, was that even in those difficult times our community came together to ensure our social profit organizations continued to function. Our generous spirit is unhampered by uncertain days and tough times – if anything it seems to fuel us to give even more to make sure that it is not those most vulnerable who suffer when times are difficult.
We have a great deal to be proud of in this community. We have amazing schools and a robust industry. We have the benefit of a resource that has served us well and that fuels not only our region but our nation. We have experienced tremendous growth that has brought new opportunities. There are so many reasons to be proud, but perhaps there is no greater pride than that we can find in the strength of our social profit organizations and in our contributions to them. Societies are judged not by how they treat those with power and influence, but by how they treat the most vulnerable. Using this yardstick I would suggest the Wood Buffalo region achieves high marks. Our spirit of kindness, compassion and generosity has become one of the pillars of our community, and a talking point for every ambassador who promotes this region on the provincial, national and international stage. It is that season again in Wood Buffalo – the giving season, the season that perhaps defines us most of all.
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