What do local fire fighters, bus drivers, power plant workers, senior police officers, and other City of Edmonton workers and managers all have in common with community nurses and Alberta Health Services managers?
They are all making life better for our city’s most vulnerable children, and for many others as well.
The Edmonton Civic Employees Charitable Assistance Fund (ECECAF) has more than 11,000 participating members from nine local unions and employee associations. Each worker contributes a percentage of their salary to the fund every month. Some of the money is spent on member services such as driver education subsidies and scholarships; however, the majority of the funds (more than $1 million a year) goes to local charities, including the e4c School Nutrition Program at Edmonton’s five All In For Youth Schools, an initiative funded by United Way of the Alberta Capital Region.
“It is all of our members who are making this happen,” says Laura Manz, vice-chair of the ECECAF board of trustees, which decides which charities will receive funding. “They are making a difference with every pay cheque.”
ECECAF partners with a wide variety of charities, including the Children’s Wish Foundation that transformed six-year-old Mable Tooke into the cancer fighting superhero “Spider Mable”. ECECAF has purchased a washer and dryer for a newcomer settlement agency, sponsored police dog agility training trials, and last year, gave its largest donation ever - $2 million towards the renovation of NorQuest College’s downtown Heritage Tower.
The goal for ECECAF’s board is to ensure the donated dollars always have “maximum impact to lift lives up within the communities that we live and work in”.
“It’s all about helping people to help themselves,” explains Manz. We chose to fund the e4c School Nutrition Program because children are challenged to participate fully in classroom learning if they don’t have good food in their bellies and we wanted to work with the United Way to support these students to reach their full potential.”
ECECAF got its start back in 1941 (the same year as our United Way), when soldiers were coming home from World War II and needed support to get back on their feet. “After the war, it expanded to the whole community,” recounts Manz. “But we haven’t strayed away from our roots. It’s people helping other people to live a full life.”
Like so many members of the ECECAF board, Manz has volunteered on the board for many years, but her commitment to helping others has been life-long. “Volunteering is a privilege,” says Manz. “I believe it is important to share with others, and ECECAF allows us to do that. ECECAF is not about giving handouts. ECECAF supports agencies that walk alongside others to give others a hand up.”
There is evidence that low literacy early in life, poor nutrition, poor school performance, and lack of employment skills contribute to the cycle of poverty. This is why ECECAF’s committed to supporting school lunch programs, early literacy development and youth employment programs. ECECAF is helping to build foundations of success for children and youth in our region.
We would like to, once again, acknowledge the Edmonton Civic Employees Charitable Assistance Fund Board of trustees for your years of support to United Way and for helping contribute to changing young lives for the better. On behalf of the thousands of children, youth and families impacted by the programs ECECAF supports, thank you!