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How I celebrated Small Business Month: Tonia Sawchuk

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: Tonia Sawchuk
Not-for-Profit: Food for Kids, Hamilton District
Q: How does Food for Kids impact the community and the people that live in it?
TS: Food for Kids has been around for six years. The organization provides packages of food to kids aged four to 17. These kids have little or no access to food and nutritious snacks. Volunteers buy groceries and deliver the food to schools during the year, and to families directly during the summer. Food for Kids is the first organization in Canada to commit to ensuring that no child should go hungry in its community. In 2017, there were 300 families on the wait list. In 2018, that number will decrease to 90 families. And the goal for 2019 is to eliminate the wait list all together.
Q: What did you do as part of your volunteer hours?
TS: Myself and five other Meridian small business employees received a grocery list. We split up between Costco and Walmart to purchase nutritious snacks for the kids that Food for Kids serves. We donated both our time and the food that we purchased. All in all, we purchased enough food to feed 900 kids.
Q: Why do you feel it’s important to celebrate Small Business Month?
TS: As a part of Meridian, we work very closely with entrepreneurs who are helping to build our community. Our celebration of Small Business Month focuses on the work done by our Members, the connections we create, and how we are growing together. In this role, I get such a unique opportunity to get to know people personally and learn about their lives. They work and invest so much of their time to make their businesses grow. It’s important to celebrate what they’ve done and achieved.
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?
TS: I feel a responsibility to help those less fortunate. It’s very important to me to give back and support people that need help. I’m fairly new to this role, and I think it’s amazing that Meridian encourages us to take the time to give back to the community. For me, volunteering like this makes me feel a sense of pride, belonging and personal achievement. I also believe that creating awareness for causes in this way gets people excited and perhaps will mobilize them to join our team next year as we continue our support for Food for Kids.
Q: In your opinion, how does celebrating Small Business Month by volunteering in the community align with Meridian’s beliefs, values and culture?
TS: At Meridian, we have a commitment to give back to communities. We donate a portion of our bottom line. We dedicate time. And we sponsor many events. So celebrating Small Business Month in this way aligns perfectly with what we stand for. Through volunteering, I’m able to create strong connections, help others, strengthen our existing relationships, promote partnership and build community.
Q: What stuck out most for you about your Small Business Month volunteer experience?
TS: When we brought the groceries that we had purchased to the Food for Kids distribution centre, we walked in and just saw shelves stocked full of food and canned goods. The Director of the organization shared some statistics with us, so we could understand the full scope of the need in our community. It was shocking how many kids are hungry. I have two little boys, aged two and four, and I just can’t imagine them not having nutritious snacks, fruits and vegetables. It touched me really personally, ignited a passion for the cause and sparked a motivation to help in any way that I can in the future.
I also think that at Meridian, we try to lead by example. I hope that by sharing my volunteer experience at Food for Kids, I can create momentum with my colleagues. Next year, it’s my goal to have a bigger Meridian team volunteering time and donating money to make a real difference for kids in our community. I want to do everything possible to make sure that no child goes hungry.
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