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How I celebrated Small Business Month: Deborah Forrester

In celebration of Small Business Month, Meridian’s small business teams chose to dedicate time and talent to Member organizations that contribute to the communities where employees live and work. Small Business Advisors who participated contributed four hours of volunteer time – two professional and two personal – to not-for-profit organizations supporting causes they care about.
Small Business Advisor: Deborah Forrester
Not-for-Profit: Heartland Forest Niagara Falls
Q: How does Heartland Forest impact the community and the people that live in it?
DF: Heartland Forest is a conservation area. Children and their families can visit and learn about the environment through nature walks, crafts and activities. Every year, Heartland Forest hosts a Halloween walk through its wheelchair-accessible trail. There are local vendors, including Meridian, games and animals.
Q: What did you do as part of your volunteer hours?
DF: I was part of a team of five Meridian employees that volunteered. We set up a scavenger hunt for kids and their families. The scavenger hunt focused on the five senses. Kids had to find all of the clues, fill in a sheet and then hand it in for a chance to be entered into a draw for prizes. We ran two scavenger hunts, and approximately 500 kids participated. The whole day was really festive, with Halloween crafts, costumes, pumpkins and hay bales.
Q: Why do you feel it’s important to celebrate Small Business Month?
DF: A large majority of businesses in Ontario that contribute to the economy are made up of five people or less. Small business is the grease that keeps the wheels of the economy going. People that own small businesses are the ultimate dreamers. In my role, I help them realize their dreams pragmatically and practically. It’s really important to celebrate what these people do and how much they contribute to the economy and the community.
Q: What did it mean to you to celebrate Small Business Month by volunteering with an organization that supports the community where you live and work?
DF: We all have to take care of each other. I felt a real sense of connectedness seeing the community come together in nature, and to see kids outside, playing and laughing. It was great to be in the moment and share that with people.
Q: In your opinion, how does celebrating Small Business Month by volunteering in the community align with Meridian’s beliefs, values and culture?
DF: At Meridian, we are grateful for our membership and the people that trust us with their financial lives. Not one person at Meridian takes that responsibility lightly. We are dedicated to being a part of the community – boots on the ground and connecting with people and causes. It’s similar in our daily work lives. We meet our Members where they are and visit where they work. We’re very engaged and connected in how we conduct business.
Every employee that joins Meridian receives a community involvement t-shirt. We have the opportunity to log our volunteer hours and earn up to $500 for a charity of our choice. If I choose to raise money for a charity, Meridian will match my fundraising up to $1000. These are all corporate policies and practices. At Meridian, we lead with love and connectedness. And it’s genuine.
Q: What stuck out most for you about your Small Business Month volunteer experience?
DF: We were down to our last scavenger hunt form. A little girl approached us wanting to play, but we didn’t have a form for her. Another little girl saw what was happening and offered her form to the girl that didn’t have one. Seeing that kindness and community in action really touched me. And Meridian wanted to recognize her generosity. We got her name and number, and a branch manager is going to reach out and treat the girl and her family to a Niagara Ice Dogs game in a box at the Meridian Centre.
I really believe that giving of your time is the best thing that you can do. Being outside all day, giving out candy, seeing smiles and connecting with people in the community was so rewarding. I also felt very proud to promote Heartland Forest and raise awareness for the cause.
Community involvement sets a great example for younger staff and creates positive momentum as well. We also get to know our colleagues in a different way – we can be silly, have personal conversations and deepen our relationships through shared experience. To me, team building through community contribution is such a special part of our culture at Meridian.
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