LISTOWEL – Nickel Forward may sound like it could be the name of a rock band from Western Canada, but it’s not. It’s a program that was hatched in the mind of Bryan Long, a worker in the service department of Equipment Ontario (formerly Stoltz Sales and Service) in Listowel. A program that helps workers look out for each other in times of need and if it’s a good year and the money doesn’t get spent, it allows them to pay it forward to their community.
“I have been working for Stoltz for 18-plus years,” Long told his fellow worker in 2018. “In that time, we have seen our co-workers go through tough times – family illness, death, complication, disease or the loss of property or damage.”
During his annual performance reviews, he often wondered if someone else could use his wage increase or a portion of it more than him.
“The increase is something I didn’t have yet so why would I miss it,” he said.
What the employees of Equipment Ontario came up with was to take about five cents from every hour and put it aside for the day that a co-worker needs it more than they do.
“Nickel Forward is for the employees by the employees,” said Long. “Nickel Forward is to help our co-workers through difficult times but if by chance we are blessed with good health we can use the proceeds to help others in our community.”
2020 was the first year they were so blessed that no one needed help.
“We were able to partner with Food Basics who matched our donation to an incredible community assistance program called It Takes A Village,” he said. “This year we also bought enough Tim Hortons Smile Cookies for every resident and employee at some of the local nursing homes. We hoped to maybe bring a smile to those that weren’t able to see their friends and loved ones due to COVID-19 restrictions.”
This year, Food Basics was able to match a $500 donation to It takes A Village.
“We have members in other communities so we are doing similar donations to the Wingham and Stayner-area food banks as well as a larger donation to the Listowel- area food bank,” said Long. “When starting this we had two goals in mind. One goal was that our team would be blessed enough to not need assistance so we could support others in need, and two, that other businesses may see the good that can come from paying a Nickel Forward and perhaps start their program.”
This year they have saved a pool of about $4,000 through Nickel Forward.
“At this location, there are about 30 employees and I think right now there is 22 contributing,” he said. “Some of our newer employees, apprentices and things like that who are just starting, they don’t contribute but usually eventually they sign on.”
Long said the employees at the Equipment Ontario locations in Elmira and Mildmay have started programs.
“If other businesses in town get the idea and somebody would take the initiative to start it – it’s a great thing to be able to help somebody out immediately or to give to the food banks, especially around Christmas time,” he said. “I think everybody feels good about it and you get used to it.”
“I just think that it’s great that they can do this,” said Food Basics Store Manager Murray McKone. “It’s an unbelievable program that they have.”
If any business or employee is interested in starting their program, Long is happy to help grow the idea.
“It is so easy and can help so many,” he said. “I can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner