Pictured above: Representatives of Sunny 94 FM in Lacombe became Secret Santas last December for those less fortunate in the Lacombe area. They helped organize the Sunny Secret Santa Toy Drive, along with Lacombe Family and Community Support Services and Lacombe Kinsmen. The radio station staff also brought in a donation for the toy drive.
By LAURA TESTER
A small-town radio station and a lawyer specializing in aboriginal law may not have a lot in common.
That was until a new initiative came along.
Staff at Sunny 94 FM in Lacombe, Alta. and Edmonton area resident Wayne Schafer found new ways to show compassion as part of A Better World Canada’s tribute to Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017. Canadians were invited to do one act of compassion each month and submit them online to ABW’s Community Compassion 12 project.
Schafer and his wife Pam decided to originally donate $150-$200 a month to a charity in honour of Canada’s big birthday — which charity was the question mark.
“One day I had lunch with a judge and I made a comment that we had just bought 75 pairs of socks to donate,” said Schafer. “The judge said, ‘well, you just work across the street from the Boyle Street Co-op and I’m on the board of directors. They’re always looking for clean socks.’”
Boyle Street Community Services helps the homeless and less fortunate in downtown Edmonton. The Schafers donated the socks and over the following months, they provided other essentials such as toothbrushes, bottled water, mitts and toques as well as kitty litter and bus tickets.
Through this exercise, Wayne and Pam have become friends with Brent Guidinger, the development manager at Boyle Street who Wayne describes as “always so gracious and thankful” for the donations. Pam, who teaches at NorQuest College, has invited Guidinger to speak to her nursing students about community involvement. Those initiatives have now spurred on others to volunteer at Boyle Street Community Services.
Wayne doesn’t believe this exercise in compassion has changed him other than being more aware of homeless needs in the downtown area. The desire to assist the less fortunate has always been a part of his makeup — one of the reasons he went into law more than 30 years ago.
“Our jobs are stressful at times, but it’s always fun to walk across the street to the Boyle Street Community Services centre and deliver water or toques or mitts or whatever they have requested,” Wayne said.
Part of the fun for this couple is also shopping around for things that are requested. They enjoy searching for the best deals in order to get the most items possible. The lawyer for Canada’s Justice Department said it feels good to know the donations are being put to use immediately.
“If I give toothbrushes on Monday, I know they’re going to be used Tuesday.”
The Schafers, members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, will keep giving to Boyle Street for the foreseeable future.
“We have 2 1/2 years left of work before we retire and we will keep making these kinds of monthly donations until we’re somewhere else,” Wayne said. “The items are needed and it does provide some satisfaction to know that we are making a small difference.”
The Schafers have also sponsored three children’s education in Kenya and have contributed to other projects with A Better World. Pam, a nurse, has volunteered on trips to Belize as well as Africa where she helped at a Rwandan hospital.
Employees at Sunny 94 were also enthusiastic to show more compassion. Initially, ABW co-founder Eric Rajah approached the station to promote the project and then they decided to get involved, too.
“We’ve always had a staff that’s keen to give back to the community, so I asked if people if wanted to get on board and it was 100 percent all-around,” said news director Kim Kay.
Their monthly activities included visiting a seniors’ lodge, organizing a softball game for Special Olympics and donating new toys at Christmas. Kay said it was both fun and rewarding to take part in ABW’s Community Compassion 12 project.
“The staff is really keen to keep those things up because in addition to doing good, it helps us bond as a team as well,” said Kay. “There’s nothing really that caps doing a really good deed in the community.”
While Kay isn’t sure whether the staff will do similar ventures on the same scale or not, they’ll continue doing something in 2018. Perhaps it will mean going out and celebrating one another or celebrating people in the community, she added.
Kay praised Rajah and ABW for being “inspiring leaders in our community that strive to give back in programs at home and overseas.”
“It just takes the actions of one to inspire others,” Kay said. “We thank them for coming to us to help promote (the project). We sure had a lot of fun with it over the last year.”
Forty-two entries were submitted through ABW’s website. One unusual event held at Burman University allowed students to respond with compassion when strangers ask to touch their hair. Recent graduate Rea-Anna Walters organized You Can Touch My Hair.
Staff at Red Deer Carpet One Floor & Home also showed various acts of compassion through the year. They included hiring a homeless man to help rearrange the showroom, buying a young couple supper anonymously, and providing free paint to the local food bank.