Steelway Building Systems and its employees raised $75,000 last year, which was divided evenly and donated this holiday season to three local food programs.
“The community has always been, and always will be, very important to us. Despite the challenges we may be facing with the pandemic, that doesn’t mean we should forget about them,” said Bryan White, co-president of Steelway. He added that fundraising takes place year-round.
Co-Presidents Jason White and Bryan White presented $25,000 donations on Dec. 17 to: the East Elgin Community Assistance Program, which operates Corner Cupboard food bank in Aylmer and East Elgin Christmas Care holiday food hamper program; Eat2Learn, which provides healthy snacks in schools across Elgin and St. Thomas; and St. Thomas Christmas Care.
(While the full Steelway staff and management usually presented the donations as a group, under pandemic guidelines, this year’s presentations were limited to the co-presidents and a representative from each organization. See photos on Page 2.)
“As members of our local community ourselves, being able to reach out and make a difference in peoples’ lives generates a great deal of collective effort at Steelway and is what sets us apart from other organizations,” said Rebecca Vachon of Steelway Building Systems.
The Jaffa-area manufacturing company has been growing the donation total every year since 2010: the staff have now raised over $267,000 over that time which Steelway corporate has matched for a total of about $534,000, split each year between local food programs (originally EECAP and Christmas Care, including Eat2Learn in recent years).
The Corner Cupboard used a portion of their donation money towards filling hampers for the East Elgin Christmas Care food hamper program. Packing took place at Immanuel Christian School on Dec. 19, 2020. About 162 families received a hamper this past season.
“It usually is an impressive donation. It’s one of the biggest industries in the area,” noted Liz McConnell of the Aylmer Corner Cupboard, adding the company has donated money to the food bank annually for many years.
The rest of the donation money will be used on an as-need basis throughout the rest of the year. The Aylmer Corner Cupboard provides food items to people in need.
The donation to Eat2Learn will help provide healthy snacks to children in public, Catholic and private schools across Elgin and St. Thomas. About 30 local schools will benefit from this donation.
“Although our student participation numbers are down slightly, which may be attributable to the number of families who have chosen remote learning, our food costs are higher as we work within the parameters established by the province, public health and local school boards,” said Charlotte McDonald of Eat2Learn.
In most cases, food served to students needs to be pre-packaged or individually wrapped, resulting in additional expenses, she added. Eat2Learn is also supporting families in need who opted for remote learning through the distribution of food boxes or grocery cards.
“This generous donation will have a significant impact on the thousands of students we serve each day,” said Ms. McDonald.
St. Thomas Christmas Care President Worth Chisholm said their cheque will go towards filling up hampers for clients. A hamper of food includes cereal, cookies, canned goods, apples, potatoes, as well as a client’s choice of either turkey or ham in order to make a complete Christmas dinner. Other items may include toys and gifts for children, hats, mitts and scarves. It cost about $50 to fill a hamper.
“Steelway has been very supportive of Christmas Care for a number of years. We’ve been very grateful for that,” said Mr. Chisholm.
The program has helped thousands of lower income households in the St. Thomas-Elgin area since 1980.
Steelway was not able to host their traditional kids Christmas party this year due to COVID-19 regulations. Staff instead helped to deliver a gift to every Steelway child, 12 and under.
Every family also received a ‘Build Your Own Sugar Cookie Truck,’ which is a sugar sweet replica of a 1938 Dodge Stake Truck. The truck was purchased by the late Glen White in 1982, and is still owned by the family.
Gifts were delivered by Steelway’s Senior Leadership Team personally to 107 children at 57 households across Southwestern Ontario.
Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express