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CEDA moved to support both CMHA and Fort McMurray relief

On that very Monday, CEDA, an industrial services company based in Alberta with operations in Fort McMurray, launched their annual charity silent auction to benefit the Canadian Mental Health Association. But by Day 3 of the Mental Health Week auction, the fires had taken hold in the community. Mental Health Week would have to wait. 1300 CEDA employees were forced from their homes or stranded on work sites. Meanwhile, residents who fled north had only the oil work camps as refuge. Workers in the camps gave up their beds, offering them to the displaced families who had nowhere else to sleep. As the fires moved north, some of the camps had to be evacuated too, with planes flying people out 24 hours a day. Then the stark reality set in for CEDA employees; the fires had hit hard, with over 40 CEDA employees’ homes in Fort McMurray completely destroyed.

Every morning during the fires, the CEDA executive team converged for meeting on the emergency situation. One item to be considered was the charity auction. With employees evacuated and operations halted in the region, the focus had shifted away from the employee event. CEDA quickly refocused the online auction into a Red Cross appeal for those impacted by the Fort McMurray fires. But it was still Mental Health Week, and now more than ever, the mental health of CEDA’s employees was top of mind. As Bailey Quaite, Supervisor of Communications and Community Relations with CEDA, explains, “Especially in stressful times like these, mental health is so incredibly important,” and so, the CEDA team decided to honour its pledge to mental health. In addition to the auction proceeds and a donation to the Canadian Red Cross, CEDA also approved a $25,000 donation to CMHA, and named CMHA as the beneficiary of next year’s auction.

CEDA announced the decision to its staff: “As Mental Health remains a critically important cause, especially during times of crisis, CEDA will continue as a major sponsor of CMHA’s Mental Health Week and we look forward to re-establishing CMHA National as the beneficiary of next year’s auction.”

CEDA’s history of charitable giving

Alberta is no stranger to natural disasters, and CEDA is no stranger to charitable giving.

When the floods hit Southern Alberta in 2013, CEDA responded. In less than a week, they had pulled together a silent auction to benefit the Canadian Red Cross. At that time, employees raised $11,000 for flood relief, which CEDA then matched. Now, three years later, the Red Cross is bringing relief to the people of Fort McMurray whose town has been ravaged by the fires. And CEDA is back at it, raising funds for the Red Cross and CMHA.

“A silent auction that started out quietly in 2013 has turned CEDA into a model funder of mental health and disaster relief causes in this country,” says Dr. Patrick Smith, CMHA’s National Chief Executive Officer.

Once the floods had receded, “CEDACares,” CEDA’s charitable giving committee gathered to set a new course. When discussing where the proceeds from the next auction should go, someone asked: “Who has been impacted in some way by mental health concerns?” Every hand in the room went up. The choice had been made: mental health it was.

The fundraising response was overwhelming. In the first two years, CEDA raised more than $68,000 for CMHA. Today, the CEDA/CMHA partnership is a model for workplaces across the country. According to Bailey Quaite, “Working with CMHA has been a great way to open up the conversation around mental health with our employees.”

“We chose CMHA because it is Canada’s mental health umbrella organization,” says Quaite. With 18 offices in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario, CEDA employees live and work all over the country.

CMHA also mirrors how CEDA wants to talk about mental health. “CMHA is solution-focused and positive.  It’s about breaking down the stigma. We want mental health to be something our employees feel safe talking about.” CEDA seeks to foster an open dialogue when it comes to mental health and workplace stress. It offers a confidential counselling helpline to all of its employees, 24/7, through its Employee and Family Assistance Program. As Quaite says: “The more you talk about mental health, the more you realize how everyone is impacted. You don’t feel alone when you can talk about it. When you’re willing to share, people share back.”

Both CEDA and CMHA look forward to continuing their rewarding partnership.