An hour a month: How Edmonton's tech industry helped people in need

CBC News
CBC News

As part of our Make the Season Kind campaign, CBC Edmonton is highlighting the work our community has done to help others in 2020.

When the province announced COVID-19 restrictions in mid-March, Chris LaBossiere knew the situation could be dire for many Edmontonians.

Within hours of the government's announcement, he rallied more than a dozen local tech companies to come together to help Edmonton's Food Bank.

LaBossiere, CEO of online training company We Know Training, emailed about 20 local tech CEOs to see if they would join him in what he was going to do. He wanted them to ask their employees to donate one hour of their salaries each month — donations that the employers would match.

"Within three hours I probably had 80 per cent of the companies say they're on board, their employees were going to be on board," said LaBossiere. "We had that kind of support."

Between April and June, the companies and their employees raised more than $150,000 for the food bank.

The money helped the charity navigate those difficult first few months.

"It was such a hopeful conversation for us," food bank executive director Marjorie Bencz told CBC News.

"We were worried about supply chains and we were worried that we wouldn't be getting food donations like we usually get from the general public.

"We used those dollars to help us ensure that we had food on supply and in-house as we moved forward into the pandemic."

Some of Edmonton's largest tech companies, like BioWare and Jobber, were among the 20 that joined the initiative.

Using the hashtag #YEGTechCares, companies shared their donations and urged others to take part.

"I'm not surprised," LaBossiere said of the companies that joined. "I'm very grateful for what Edmonton's tech community does to help."

LaBossiere says he wants to look at ways the tech community could continue to support an initiative like this in the future.

"I think that as someone who used the food bank when I was a kid, there's probably a big percentage of the population that's very close to needing it, more than we might think."