Nonprofit Christie Lake Kids shows small business the love with inclusive campaign

Help Us — Help Them — Help Us initiative supports struggling business community and CLK's efforts to enrich lives of vulnerable youth
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Ottawa businessman Scott Parkes, chair of the annual Unlikely Pairing gala, is joined by Kimberley Banks, manager of corporate sponsorship, marketing and events for the nonprofit organization, and Ottawa businesswoman Elizabeth Kilvert, owner of The Unrefined Olive, to promote the nonprofit organization's Help Us — Help Them — Help Us campaign. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Asking small businesses to donate to charity is hard enough. Throw a global pandemic into the mix and such a request can be downright painful, knowing shopkeepers and restaurant owners are just trying to make it to the other side of the coronavirus crisis.

Nonprofit organization Christie Lake Kids (CLK) has come up with a new fundraising campaign that is collaborative, creative and compassionate. It’s giving a boost to small businesses that have been loyal to CLK, a well-established Ottawa charity that provides year-round programs and service to disadvantaged children and youth in a safe, encouraging and inclusive environment.

Its newly launched campaign, Help Us — Help Them — Help Us, involves 100 restaurants, breweries and cafés, local shops, fitness centres, attractions and more. The charity has put together an easy-to-use online registry, featuring its local partners. The public is encouraged to support one or more of their favourite spots by purchasing online gift cards that they donate back to CLK for its online charitable auction, taking place later this fall. 

The campaign, which helps local businesses and the charity at the same time, was created by Kimberley Banks, manager of corporate sponsorship, marketing and events for CLK.

Banks has sadly watched mom-and-pop stores bear the brunt of the pandemic shutdown. As a result, she didn’t feel comfortable asking owners to give to CLK’s charity auction.

“I didn’t want to come from a place of like, ‘You’re back up and running now, can we have a donation, still?’ It just didn’t seem right to me," she says. "Now, it feels like we’re really doing our part in giving back to the community that gives so much to us.”

CLK will be running its Help Us — Help Them — Help Us campaign until late October. The purchased/donated gift cards will be included on the charity’s online auction, which is expected to run for several weeks in and around the organization’s ninth annual Unlikely Pairing Gala on Nov. 21. The Taggart Parkes Foundation is returning as the presenting sponsor while Scott Parkes is also back as the event chair. Parkes is vice-president with Tamarack Developments – part of the Taggart Group of Companies. He also served for 10 years on the board of directors for Christie Lake Kids.

You can bet Parkes will be supporting the campaign by purchasing gift cards.

“I have seen firsthand what a tremendous difference this organization makes for disadvantaged children and youth in our city,” Parkes told OBJ.social. “This year has been hard on families and has also been a challenging time to raise funds for those in need. Our fundraising has always relied heavily on the support of our business community, but this year many of our local businesses are also in need of support."

What's unique about the Unlikely Pairing Gala is how its menu is prepared by local gourmet food trucks and served with fine wines.

This year’s fundraiser will be held in a new physical-distancing format. Guests will gather in private homes in groups of up to 10. They will receive special packages with cocktails, appetizers, four-course dinners from the participating food trucks, curated wines, and table centrepieces from decoration sponsor Wedecor. They will have access to an online link that will include remarks from Parkes and inspiring stories shared by former CLK kids. Tickets are $250 per person.

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The 8th Annual Unlikely Pairing: Adventures in Food Trucks and Fine Wine, held in 2019, attracted a sold out crowd to Ashbury College and raised a net total of $155,000 for Christie Lake Kids, a nonprofit organization that provides recreation and skill building opportunities for economically disadvantaged children and youth. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Elizabeth Kilvert is the owner of The Unrefined Olive, a store that specializes in olive oil and balsamic vinegars from around the world. She regularly buys tickets to attend charity events and contributes her goods and services to their auctions. Last year, she donated more than $40,000 to help various charities. 

The Unrefined Olive has been a long-time supporter of CLK and is one of the 100 businesses included in the campaign. Kilvert continues to get a few requests each week for contributions to charities but has had to reduce the number of causes she’s able to support at this time. 

It’s “incredible” what Christie Lake Kids is doing by “taking the initiative to take care of the businesses that have been generous to them over the last few years and to make sure that landscape still looks the same,” she told OBJ.social. “They’re looking at things from a completely different lens.”

Kilvert said she’s also encouraged by the public’s general enthusiasm toward Buy Local campaigns.

“They realize they want the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, and so they’re supporting that,” she says.

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From left, Kimberley Banks from Christie Lake Kids with its Unlikely Pairing gala chair, Scott Parkes, vice president with Tamarack Developments, and supporter Elizabeth Kilvert, owner of The Unrefined Olive, in front of Ad Mare Food Truck, which participates in the annual gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Due to the pandemic, people are generally spending less money on travel, restaurants, entertainment, new clothes and children’s extracurricular activities. That means many people have more disposable income, Kilvert pointed out.

“Why can’t we return some of those funds that we’ve saved as individuals back into the charitable sector,” she suggests. “Ottawa is generous and we should continue to be so.”

Christie Lake Kids serves more than 600 kids through its overnight summer camp near Perth and its after-school programming in at-risk Ottawa neighbourhoods. It’s had to adapt – due to strict public health measures – by running its programming in a virtual format, including its camp.

The organization has been regularly checking in with its CLK families by phone and video chat (where possible) to maintain open channels of communication between program staff, volunteers, children and youth. 

It’s aiming to resume its inner-city programming this fall with a mix of outdoor activities, social distancing activities and online activities.

– caroline@obj.ca