Volunteers + Salesforce Generosity = Huge Impact in Small Town Canada
It was December 2014, when I noticed on Facebook that my former elementary school was aiming at raising funds for their playground in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. St. Columban’s was my old stomping ground and they badly needed to upgrade their schoolyard, as it was becoming outdated and uninspired. I ended up contacting a teacher at the school who I have known for over 20 years, Kelly Thieroff. Another teacher, Meghan Henry, was spearheading this passionate plea for funding and they needed help.
I told her that I work for an amazingly generous company and we have this model, called the 1-1-1 model and if I could show the need, we could apply for a team grant. This would cover all the materials needed to make the project a reality, through Salesforce.org. A team grant is part of Salesforce.org Employee-Inspired Giving Program that seeks to support and encourage each employee’s personal generosity and community volunteering. Team Grants help offset qualifying costs an organization may incur for hosting teams of 5 or more Salesforce employee volunteers. So I applied and when the news came that we received the grant of $10,000 USD, there was so much excitement (and I can say a few tears). We spent the next 6 months organizing the efforts and I rallied some of my Salesforce colleagues from Toronto and Montreal, who were generous with their time and expertise!
We all made the trek to Cornwall to start phase 1 of the project, building a garden in the front of the school. This phase consisted of planting vegetables, berry trees, several plants and bushes, and installing a composter and storage bin. We painted large chalkboards to install on the fences in the playground. We worked despite the threat of thunderstorms, for two days. We welcomed our Director of Communications, Karin Campbell who drove 5 hours all the way from the Salesforce Toronto office. Elizabeth Jackson is a Salesforce Finance Manager who traveled over an hour each way, from Montreal. We were lucky to have local Cornwall City Councillor Justin Towndale, and my dear friends: Erin Fry, Melissa Fobert, and Penny Rudderham who all stepped up and helped out. Teachers Meghan Henry and Kelly Thieroff were both on the ball with the organization of the activities, and we were impressed. We felt welcomed and so appreciated by all staff, the community and the students!
We gave the kids a tour around the garden and they asked questions of the volunteers. Some even watched from their classrooms and offered their help in watering and taking care the gardens. It was fun and an experience to see such joy and appreciation.
At the end of day two, we were called into the school gym. The entire school thanked us all in a heartfelt speech, saying they were overwhelmed with Salesforce.org’s contributions and committed to installing a commemorative plaque in honor of our work. Phase 2 of the project is construction, which will take place in the summer – this is where they will paint some parts of the schoolyard, install benches, an outdoor classroom, add new trees, new equipment and overall, enhance the playground for the enjoyment of the children. They are still accepting donations as there are many more ideas they’d like to implement and could use more community funding.
These past two days have been unforgettable. From the kindness of the volunteers, the teachers, community, and the kids – it was more than we could ask for. I sincerely feel blessed to have my employer, Salesforce, give us these kinds of opportunities and provide the encouragement to step up and make a difference in our communities.
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