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Fighting Homelessness in Our Community, One Night at a Time

MaryAnne Connor & Merinda Widmer
Merinda presents her check to NightShift Founder MaryAnne Connor.

Surrey BC is a city in a period of growth. The third fastest-growing city in Canada, Surrey welcomes more than 1000 new residents every month. It’s affordable housing prices make it a desirable spot for young couples and recent immigrants to set up their home.

But not everyone is benefiting from this economic boom. In Surrey alone, an average of 600 people sleep on the streets every night, in doorways, makeshift shelters, tents, or dilapidated motor homes without heat or plumbing. This number soars to over 2,000 when you count the entire homeless population of the Greater Vancouver area.

Surrey is also the home of Raven Supply. Our head office is located near the rapidly growing Newton area. Our staff live nearby and know the businesses and community first hand. We also try to do what they can to give back to the city when we can. 

Inside Sales Engineer Merinda Widmer kept this in mind when she chose NightShift Street Ministries as the recipient of her Raven Giving Fund donation. 

“I chose NightShift as my non-profit organization because of the amazing things they’re doing for Surrey’s homeless population,” she explains. “At a time when more than 7,000 people in our province are homeless, their services are more crucial than ever.”

NightShift Kitchen
New kitchen facilities at NightShift.

During a 2018 survey of the homeless population in BC, 58% of individuals surveyed reported that they live with two or more medical conditions, while 44% reported one medical condition and 33% reported a physical disability. When it came to mental illness, the numbers were also sobering, with 40% of respondents battling mental health conditions as well as spending cold nights on the street. 

“It’s always surprised me how many misconceptions people have about the homeless community,” Merinda says, adding that she believes that no one is to fault for ending up without a roof over their head. 

“This organization does fantastic things to help our local homeless population,” she continues. “In 2017, NightShift provided 36,500 hot meals, 3,500 warm blankets, 810 safe nights of sleep for women, and 105 evenings of the car bus. All this and more without any government funding.”

Merinda’s Raven Giving Fund contribution of $250.00 will go towards helping NightShift continue this valuable work. Every year, the Raven Giving Fund gives each of our employees $250.00 to donate to a charity or non-profit organization of their choice. Thanks Merinda for being a great community member and an outstanding member of the Raven team!

To find out more about NightShift, please click here. 

Linna Luu Picks the Volunteer Grandparents for Her Raven Giving Fund Donation

Volunteer Grandparents LogoGrandparents play a much more substantial role in children’s lives than simply providing free childcare, according to some recent studies. A 2018 study claims that children who have regular interactions with grandparents have less behavioural problems,  and one from 2014 suggests that kids who have regular interactions with a grandparents are less likely to suffer from depression as adults. 

But in Metro Vancouver, where many young families are far from home and extended relatives, children are often raised with once a week Skype calls as their only contact to grandparents overseas. That’s where the Volunteer Grandparents come in. Volunteer Grandparents is a non-profit organization that connects seniors with some spare time to children in our community who don’t have grandparents nearby. 

Linna Luu knows how important grandparents are in a family from personal experience. 

“My grandparents have made a great impact on my life,” explains Linna. These days, Linna is a Project Engineer at Raven Supply. When it came time for her to make a donation to the organization of her choice through the Raven Giving Fund, Linna wanted to help other kids have the same beneficial experiences that helped her become successful. 

Linna Luu drops off her Raven Giving Fund donation at Volunteer Grandparents.

“I’m positive these Volunteer Grandparents will make a significant difference in the lives of many children,” Linna explains. She knows that like any relationship, the one between child and grandparents is a win-win on both sides.

“I think that seniors often get left behind in our society, and this non-profit provides a way for these seniors to share their knowledge and experience with a younger generation while staying connected with their community,” she adds. 

Volunteer Grandparents runs several programs. The Family Match program matches the volunteer with a family with kids aged 3 to 14 looking for the senior to take part in their family community. The School Grandparents Program connects seniors with elementary students, and the Ambassador program gives seniors the chance to volunteer at summer events. 

But like everything she does, Linna had a very specific plan for her $250.00 Raven Giving Fund donation, and made the decision to direct her support to the Volunteer Grandparents’ Florio Bursary Program

“I specifically chose to support the Florio bursary because of the process required to be eligible for this bursary – the Volunteer Grandparents must provide a written explanation on why the grandchild they recommend should receive financial assistance to help fund an activity such as piano lessons or ski lessons,” she explains.

“This process not only provides a screening process for applicants, but also shows the children that their Volunteer Grandparents think of them and care for them as much as a biological grandparent would.”

Thank you Linna for all your hard work, and for doing what you can to make sure more children have the support they need to achieve their own successes. 

To learn more about the Volunteer Grandparents, please visit www.volunteergrandparents.ca.

Nic Sun Shares His Love of the Outdoors Through the Raven Giving Fund

Nic Sun gives his cheque to the VASS
Nic Sun visits the VASS to drop off his Giving Fund donation in person.

As VP of Engineering, Nic Sun gives his all to every project he takes on. That means that Monday to Friday, Nic is ready, energized and enthusiastic about every proposal or client plan that he dives into. On the weekend, Nic finds another way to get his energy out- by making the most of the outdoor activities offered by the incredible mountains, lakes and oceans surrounding Greater Vancouver.

So when it came to deciding where to send his Raven Giving Fund donation, it seemed only natural that Nic would pick an organization that helps make the great outdoors accessible to everyone. That’s why, this year, Nic selected Vancouver Adaptive Snow Sports (VASS) to as recipient of his Raven Giving Fund donation. Introduced in 2018, the Fund gives each of our employees $250.00 a year to donate to the charity or community group of their choice.

“Vancouver Adaptive Snow Sports enables persons with disabilities to access the mountain experience, allowing them to discover their unique capabilities with the assistance of coaches and mentors,” he explains.

“Skiing and mountains have been a huge part of my life since birth. To me, nothing else in the world delivers a greater sense of freedom, joy and self-expression,” he adds. “These are all fundamental parts of the human experience that I believe all people are entitled to.”

Nic’s donation will help support VASS’s ski and snowboard programs for people living with physical and intellectual disability. This non-profit, membership based organization is run entirely by volunteer instructors who offer snowboarding, skiing, and sit-skiing classes for students of every level and any age group. 

Every instructor is Canadian Adaptive Snowsport (CADS) certified, and is dedicated to working side by side with VASS members to help them achieve their athletic goals. For some more serious members, that means preparing for races as a member of the VASS Blue Streaks Adaptive Alpine Racing Program. The Blue Streaks practice twice a week and enter general races hosted by the Grouse Mountain Tyee Ski club.

VASS also hosts the annual VASS Cup event. The VASS Cup features snowboard, ski and sit-ski races, along with sledge hockey, an adaptive snow sports experience zone, a silent auction, and even a costume contest! This year, more than 300 people came out for this event, which raised $83,000 for VASS’s programs. You can check the VASS Cup in the media here.

Thanks Nic, for letting us know about this cool organization. To find out more, visit www.vass.ca.

Why Ashley Supports The Surrey Women’s Centre

Ashley Donates to the Surrey Women's Centre
Ashley was thrilled to drop off her donation to the Surrey Women’s Center

When it came time for General Manager and Partner Ashley Bouchard to make a choice about how to spend her Raven Giving Fund donation, she knew exactly what to do.

“I chose to donate to the Surrey Women’s Centre- Surrey Mobile Assault response team, because the statistic of 1 out of 3 women who experience physical or sexual assault in their lifetime is too high,” she explains.

“It’s my hope with this program is that women will be able to get out of dangerous situations, and in turn raise healthy, happy, and strong children,” Ashley says. “It’s all about stopping the cycle of abuse and violence. Everyone can use help and these programs help prove that you don’t have to go through this alone.”

Ashley has been a supporter of the Surrey Women’s Centre for the last 7 years. In addition to the Mobile Assault response team, this non-profit organization operates as a crisis centre for women and girls escaping domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence complete with a drop-in centre, workshops, and legal and counselling services .

Ashley first came in contact with the organization when she was looking for some place to donate clothing and household items and came across the Sharing Closet at their Drop-In Centre location. Immediately, she was surprised and impressed by the selection of services this organization provides to women in need.

“What I love about them is that they do not charge the ladies to take clothing and supplies home. They have shopping days on Wednesday where the ladies can come in to a comfortable environment and get the things they need.” Ashley smiles. “They also take children’s items and personal care items as well.”

Like every staff member, Ashley got the opportunity to drop-in and give her donation to the Surrey Women’s Centre staff in person.

“I felt very fortunate to be able to contribute to such a worthy cause in our local neighbourhood. The team at the centre was so welcoming and eager to share stories about the rest of the work that they do,” she recalls.

The Raven Giving Fund gives each member of our Raven Supply team with a $250.00 donation to give to a community group or non-profit they feel passionate about. It’s just part of our way of staying connected to our community, and also supporting our team members in their interests and passions outside of work. Curious? Read more about it here.

The Raven Giving Fund Supports Children and Youth in Foster Care

Day to day, the ins and outs of running a thriving business can distract from the fact that our business is a part of a larger community. One way that our company keeps our connection to our community in focus is through the Raven Giving Fund.

Introduced in 2018, the Fund provides each of our team members with $250.00 a year to donate towards a community group of their choosing. For Office Administrator Megan Davies, this meant giving to a local organization that she holds dear- the S.O.S. Children’s Village in Surrey BC. Megan has a background that includes teaching english to school aged children overseas, so we weren’t surprised when she decided to spend her Giving Fund allotment on programs for children here at home.

A super sized cheque for some super kids. 

“I chose this non-profit because I’m passionate about children and raising kids in a healthy, loving, and safe environment,” she says.

S.O.S. Children’s Village provides Lower Mainland children and youth in care with an alternative model of foster care that operates separate from the provincial system. S.O.S. Children’s Village services includes foster homes, an inclusive and supportive community, and social, art and therapy programs all designed to help foster children and youth grow into caring, self-reliant adults. One of the most unique aspects of this approach is ‘the village’ – a cluster of of 5 foster homes where children live together with adults who care as a community.

“There are thousands of foster children in BC and Canada who aren’t raised in stable environments, and so they don’t get the guidance they need,” explains Megan. “If I can contribute to this group home and positively impact the environment of these children and youth even in a small way, I would be grateful.”

Megan’s contribution of $250 through the Raven Giving Fund can be used to cover the costs for a session of the Village Learning Club– a homework club where foster children can get help from BC Certified Teacher Support as well as enjoy themselves through guided games and physical activities.

A street view of the S.O.S. Children’s Village in Surrey BC.

S.O.S. Children’s Village in Surrey also helps fill another major gap in support many teens in care face when they ‘age out’ of the system, usually when they’re 18. S.O.S. Children’s Village makes sure the youth in their care are ready once it’s their time to strike out on their own with a gradual independence program. Teens start gaining the knowledge they’ll need as adults beginning at 16, and the program culminates with them receiving an “apartment in a box” with many of the supplies they’ll need – including a bed.

Thanks Megan for inspiring us with your charity choice for the Raven Giving Fund! To find out

more about S.O.S. Children’s Village in Surrey and to get involved, visit them online here.