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How I celebrated Small Business Month: Terri Millar




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: Terri Millar
Not-for-Profit: The Guelph Food Bank
 
Q: How does The Guelph Food Bank impact the community and the people that live in it?
TM: The Guelph Food Bank provides food, clothing and basic supports for people in Guelph that are in need. The organization also provides supplies to other service groups as well. As of January 2018, the food bank converted from a food hamper model to a grocery-shopping model, where clients receive points and use those points toward acquiring food and supplies from what’s available on the shelves.
 
Q: What did you do as part of your volunteer hours?
TM: Four of us volunteered together on the same day. We started in the warehouse, sorting the community donations received during the Thanksgiving food drives. After that, myself and another colleague restocked shelves in the grocery store. It was our responsibility to merchandise the food professionally to ensure a positive shopping experience for clients. We only had the afternoon to complete that work, which is a short window of time to get the grocery store ready for the next morning’s clients.
 
Q: Why do you feel it’s important to celebrate Small Business Month?
TM: Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the spirit of our community. Individually run businesses and family-owned operations are hard work. It is important to show our appreciation, respect and gratitude for these people and their efforts in terms of providing jobs, services and income for our 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?
TM: For me personally, it’s in my DNA. I grew up in Guelph. It’s my home. I have always been an active volunteer in my personal life. But I am so humbled to work for an organization that fosters the expectation that we, as employees, give back to the community.
 
The Associate Director of the food bank and her husband also own a business and are Meridian Members. I felt proud calling her and telling her that we chose to volunteer at the food bank to celebrate Small Business Month. While we were working, her husband came by to thank us. We took photos, and had a chance to talk business as well. There was mutual appreciation – from us for the work that the food bank is doing to support the community, and from them for Meridian’s support as a financial and community partner.
 
Q: In your opinion, how does celebrating Small Business Month by volunteering in the community align with Meridian’s beliefs, values and culture?
TM: Our company statement emphasizes actively engaging in the community, building it and supporting it. That value is an integral part of our corporate culture and daily activities. As Meridian employees, we roll up our sleeves and get out there. Our community involvement is never just about writing a cheque or putting up a banner. Employees – and their families – hand out food to volunteers, work start lines of races and greet clients at the food bank. It’s never a matter of being “volun-told.” We volunteer enthusiastically, and we are encouraged to do so.
 
Q: What stuck out most for you about your Small Business Month volunteer experience?
TM: When you first walk into the food bank, you see an abundance of food. Immediately, I thought to myself, “wow, the Thanksgiving food drives must have been so successful!” But then we learned how much food it actually takes to feed everyone in need in the city of Guelph. By the end of October, the food bank needs to have 90,000 pounds of food. When we were there, the total was only at 58,000 pounds.
 
I felt a real sense of gratitude for my own food security. Many people in Guelph don’t know where their next meal is coming from. It gave me a new perspective about my relationship to food in terms of dented cans and expiry dates. We are so quick to waste. I think that all of us that volunteered that day were very humbled. I know one of my colleagues was so moved emotionally by the whole experience that she and her husband have now committed to volunteer regularly and support the food bank’s critical work.
 
Typically, we often worry about taking four hours out of the office because things won’t get done. But four hours won’t make or break my career. It’s important to stop and dedicate time to the community. At the end of my experience at the food bank, I felt rejuvenated and re-energized with a renewed sense of gratitude for how blessed I am. I also felt proud to work for an organization that encourages and values giving back to those less fortunate.

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