Earlier this year a group of employees at Systemair decided they wanted to make a difference in the community.
They founded Systemair Community Cares, a non-profit organization created in March 2019 by employees at their Tillsonburg facility on Rouse Street. The objective is to raise funds for worthy causes within the community.
“It’s a group of volunteers inside of this (Systemair) company,” said Systemair’s Rick Kyle.
“At the beginning of the year we said ‘let’s do something that’s good for the community.’ It’s really not a company committee, we really made it so it’s just a group of people that want to do something for the community. Systemair helps… but at the same time it’s more for the people that are here. It’s an employee thing, not a company thing.”
And Systemair Community Cares is more than just a committee, Kyle stressed.
“We represent all of the employees inside Systemair, and I think that’s important. For the fundraising we have had a tremendous outpouring of people who have put in money, even if it’s just a ticket draw. Everybody in this company is participating, which is incredible. I think it’s great.”
Since March they have done both internal fundraising within the company, which employs just over 100 people (including contract staff), and fundraising in the wider Tillsonburg area. The group sits as a committee and decides on different charitable events.
A recent donations was made to The Salvation Army Tillsonburg ($500) in support of the annual Supplies 4 Students program, which provides a little extra help to those families in Oxford County who need it for the ‘back-to-school’ season.
“That came up at our last meeting,” said Kyle. “I think Tammy (Smoke) brought it up and we all said, ‘yes, let’s do that.’
“It’s very important to me,” Smoke nodded.
“We’ve done several draws here at work,” said Robert Moody, president of the Systemair Community Cares committee. “We do a weekly 50-50 draw that raises money, and when we reach a certain amount of money we’re able to disperse it through town for different organizations.
“We’ve made five or six donations so far,” Moody noted. “And more on the way.”
In addition to supporting worthwhile community projects, Kyle said Systemair Community Cares also supports its own members within Systemair.
“When people in the company have some things that they’re going through, as well. If a committee member says ‘I have a cousin that has a problem…’ or when something’s going on in their life or touches them, we can say ‘this is why we created this.'”
A similar program operates within The Salvation Army, said Nancy Sheils, Salvation Army Tillsonburg Captain and Executive Director.
“We have a ministry called Community Care that does the same think within our church body,” said Sheils. “We take care of those within the church, and those outside the church as well.”
The Salvation Army Tillsonburg first linked with Supplies 4 Students when it was initiated in 2016 by United Way Oxford and its partners, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Children’s Aid Society of Oxford and Staples.
“We now partner with a variety of organizations. We come together, pull together, and we work with Staples, one of the partners. For the Tillsonburg (Oxford) area, families can call 211. They register for the backpack program, and depending where they live – in this case Tillsonburg – they’ll come and see us at Staples at the designated times and dates (starting August 23).”
The program ensures families are given the opportunity to shop for supplies. They have the experience of shopping together, buying what they need and working within a budget. And it ensures the students are ready and well-equipped by the first day of school.
Before joining the Supplies 4 Students program, which provides students with $35 (JK-6) and $50 (Grade 7-12) shopping codes to use at Staples, the local Salvation Army has had it’s own ‘backpack (school supplies) program’ for decades, noted Donna Acre, Community Ministries Coordinator.
“I’ve been here for 26 years with The Army and we’ve been doing backpacks the whole time,” said Acre.
“Because we are a tri-county ministry, The Salvation Army here not only does Oxford County, we do Norfolk County and Elgin County, within the district that The Salvation Army has given us,” said Sheils. “Outside of Oxford County, those coming from Norfolk and Elgin, we have 23 children registered there. They will come to us to get backpacks and supplies.”
“If they live in Courtland or Straffordville, they can’t access this (Oxford) Supplies 4 Students,” noted Acre. “But because we’re tri-county, we can help them.”
If outside of Oxford County but in the Tillsonburg Salvation Army Area – which includes parts of Norfolk County and Bayham, families can call 519-842-4777 ext 104 to register for the program.
Last year 146 children in Tillsonburg received backpacks with school supplies, said Sheils.
“A lot of years we have extra backpacks, and the (Helping Hand) food bank has a weekend backpack program for food. We can supply that program with extra backpacks that we have so that kids have food every weekend.”
Sheils told members of the Systemair Community Cares committee that The Salvation Army was very thankful for the donation.
“It does make a difference in the community and area,” said Sheils. “You are our unsung heroes because we can’t do what we do in the community without partners like yourselves.”