Let the season of giving begin with giveshop.ca

Kid's sleigh for sale
Want this sleigh for your holiday greenery display? You can buy it on giveshop.ca for $20 with proceeds to United Way

November 30 is Giving Tuesday, the day when charities, companies and individuals join together to give to their favourite charities after the frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Luckily for those of us in Ontario, there’s a new website in town to make Giving Tuesday easy—giveshop.ca.

Giveshop was founded in Ottawa with a mission to help Canadians support their favourite charities and schools. It’s basically like Facebook marketplace. You put used items up for sale, or shop online, but all the funds go to charity.

Giveshop is still growing its community, so the majority of items listed are in the Ottawa area but there are charities listed in Kingston, Toronto and Vancouver. Some of the charities you can choose to direct funds to include Autism Speaks Canada, Make-a-Wish-Foundation of Canada, Muscular Dystrophy Canada, CHEO Foundation, Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, and United Way of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington.

I listed two items for sale in support of my company’s United Way campaign, a bike and kid’s sleigh. It only took a few minutes to list my item, set a price and upload a picture. You can choose both the charity you want to support, and a specific campaign. Donors receive a charitable receipt for the purchase price.

As you start your holiday shopping, why not make it a goal to sell one used item cluttering up your house on Giveshop for every item you buy?

If you’d like to support our work campaign, choose United Way of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington for the charity and Empire Life Charitable Campaign for the campaign.

TIP: Giveshop just launched its desktop app. I’d recommend accessing it mainly from your phone. The mobile app is less buggy and very easy to use.

This week’s #HappyAct is to get in the spirit of the giving season and become part of the giveshop community. Happy giving!

Bike for sale
Buy me on giveshop.ca!

Hope for a better tomorrow

rainbow of children

Tomorrow we kick off our United Way campaign at work. Our theme this year is “A better tomorrow” to reflect, positivity, hope and to inspire change.

I’m hopeful our Empire Life campaign will be a success. Each year we raise more than a quarter of a million dollars for United Way programs and agencies across Canada, an impressive feat considering we have less than 1,000 employees.

But I’m hopeful for so much more. I’m hopeful that the worst of COVID is behind us, at least in Canada.

I’m hopeful that the lessons we’ve learned about the great divide between the privileged in our society and those less fortunate are taken to heart, and we take a critical look at our systems, supports and programs to make change for a better tomorrow.

I’m hopeful that companies will be brave and bold as they envision the future of work to provide a more holistic, balanced approach so employees around the world can lead richer, more rewarding lives.

I’m hopeful we can finally turn our attention to the greatest challenge we face: the climate crisis and saving our planet for ourselves, our children, and our children’s children.

These are big hopes, I know, but I can at least do my part by giving to United Way and help build a better tomorrow, one person, one program at a time in my own community.

This week’s #HappyAct is to give to your local United Way. Did you know the KFL&A United Way was recognized once by Charity Intelligence Canada on their top 100 Rated Charities list for 2021? They also recently announced a special Women United Challenge Grant. Under the existing Leadership Challenge Grant, supporters who give $1,200 or more and increase their donation or those who make a new $1,200 gift will see their donation matched. With the addition of the Women United grant, women donors will see their donation matched by both grants – tripling their impact through United Way KFL&A.

Working wonders together

Author and her co-workers at United Way kick-off
On my morning drive this week, I saw this sign on a local church: “Not one person can do everything, but every person can do something.”

In a few days, my company will kick off our annual United Way campaign. Our theme this year is #WorkingWondersTogether.

I’ve always been a huge supporter of United Way, but this year, the campaign has touched me on a deeper level than ever before.

It started in June when Dave and I spent a week in Vancouver. We hit all the normal touristy places–Stanley Park, Granville Island, and the seashore parks. One day as we were walking around Chinatown, we ventured into an area bordering Gastown that had the highest concentration of homeless people I’ve ever seen. It was devastating.

In Vancouver, the services for people “sleeping in the rough” and who are struggling with addictions are all within a city block, causing people in need to congregate close to where the services are provided. While the need is just as real in other cities, services are spread out, so the stark reality of the plight of homeless people can be more hidden.

I couldn’t fathom how a city so rich in wealth, dripping with million dollar homes on every street corner, could allow such poverty to exist.

A few months later, my friends Jill and David, who lives in Australia visited and stayed overnight. After a sumptuous dinner, over a glass of wine in my comfortable home, we were talking about homelessness. David has some knowledge in this area. I asked him questions about people he knew, how they came to be homeless and the burning question, what can we do to give people a hand up and help them on a healthy path?

His insights helped me better understand the terrible cycle of addiction, mental health, and poverty. He shared with me this article, How I went from corporate lawyer to sleeping rough. Read it.

I now look at people “sleeping in the rough” differently. Now, when I see someone outside a grocery store in need, I ask them if I can buy them some food. While I still feel helpless to change their situation, I’m compelled to do something.

This week’s #HappyAct is to #WorkWondersTogether. Every one of us can do something to effect change. For every day of our campaign, I am going to do one small thing to make this world a more wonderful place. Join me, and give what you can.

Ed. note: This picture is of me and my amazing friends and Empire Life co-workers Dale Mainville and Jessica Schonewille who do so much to make the world a more wonderful place at our United Way BBQ on Friday. And no, I haven’t gained weight, it was so cold we had three layers on!

Attend a retirement party

Two women with drinks celebrating
Elaine on the right with her sister Lynn-Marie (also retired!) at her retirement celebration

I’ve attended a lot of retirement parties lately. Several years ago, my company announced a change to retiree benefits, and I think many of my friends and colleagues just decided it was time to go.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the retirement celebration of my BFF at work, Elaine Peterson. You may recall Elaine, since she’s been a subject of blog posts like Show your spirit, You Can’t Buy Happiness, but You Can Buy Chocolate and Play Hookey for the Day.

While some people like to quietly slip out, Elaine helped plan an entire week of retirement festivities with lunches, dinners, and an after-work fete at a local bar. Today, I’m taking her to Handel’s Messiah for her retirement present.

On Friday, I celebrated the upcoming retirement of my friend Beatrice, who told us that Empire Life was the longest place she ever worked. She stayed because she liked the people she was working with so much and the work was always interesting and challenging.

There are so many reasons why these celebrations are so special.

I enjoy hearing the incredible stories and contributions my colleagues have made to their organizations, often over the course of decades.

I love seeing the smiles and laughter around the room and how genuinely happy everyone is for the person retiring.

I like seeing former colleagues who made the leap years ago who came to honour the newest recruit to their ranks. Without fail, they look ten years younger and say they are busier than ever.

But most of all I love the warmth and family feel of these gatherings. Like it or not, work is a huge part of our lives. The people we work with become our family. And when one of our members leaves us to embrace a new, exciting chapter in their life, we celebrate with them.

This week’s #HappyAct is to attend a retirement or honour the work contributions of a special colleague. And to all my friends who have made the leap into retirement or are making the leap this year, I am so happy for you. Enjoy, and don’t look back!

Make an inspiration wall

inspiration-wall
Grace’s inspiration wall

What inspires you? That’s the question we’ve been asking our employees during this year’s United Way campaign. Once again, the employees at Empire Life have blown me away by their generosity and willingness to be inspired by the incredible work United Way agencies do in our community and to make a difference.

There is so much in the world that is uninspiring today. It is rare to find something that compels you to feel or do something to create change in our society or something unique or beautiful.

I get my inspiration from my children, my friends and co-workers, and the natural surroundings of where I live.

The other day, Clare told me she wanted to start a new project: to create an inspiration wall. She started looking up inspirational sayings online. Her plan was to print them out and post them around her room. (Her teacher said she couldn’t do this at school if you can believe it). Grace created a similar inspiration wall a few years ago.

We need to be inspired at work, at home and in our community.

This week’s #HappyAct is to create your own Inspiration Wall. Here are some of the sayings Clare planned to use on her wall. Leave a comment. What inspires you?

“Happiness is found when you stop comparing yourself to other people.”

“When we get to the end of our lives together; the house we had, the cars we drove, the things we possessed won’t matter. What will matter is that I had you by my side.”

“You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

“When it rains, look for rainbows. When it’s dark, look for stars.”

“If plan A didn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters.”

uw-inspiration-wall
An inspiration wall created by Empire Life customer service teams who adopted the Kingston Youth Shelter for this year’s campaign–there were posters like this all over the floor to encourage people to bring in donations for what the shelter needs.

It can buy me a boat

I’ve been thinking a lot about money lately. November is Financial Literacy Month, and once again my company, Empire Life, is issuing a challenge: to take action this month on the one thing you need to do to feel better about your financial health. We call it the Financial Weight Loss Challenge—lose the weight of whatever financial worry is weighing you down.

Financial Literacy Month ad

For the past two weeks, I’ve been trying to decide what action I will take this month. Last year I said I was going to change to a cheaper cell phone plan, finish a spreadsheet I’d started with all our insurance and investment policies, and start saving more for the kids’ education. While I didn’t get it all done last November, I followed through on all three things.

My family’s favourite song right now is Chris Janson’s song, Buy Me a Boat. The lyrics are, “I know everybody says money can’t buy happiness…but it could buy me a boat, it could buy me a truck to pull it.”

When it comes to money, we’ve always taken a balanced approach between saving and living. Right now, living is winning out. So my actions this month will be modest: sign up for ebilling for those final bills that are still mailed to me (bonus points for going green, something I should have done a long time ago), put a few extra payments on our line of credit, and waste less food in the house, which for us mainly means cleaning out our fridge more often.

That will leave a little money in the bank to dream. And while the last thing we need is another boat, you never know what might show up in the driveway or where the wind will take us on our travels next year.

This week’s #HappyAct is to take the Financial Weight Loss Challenge and share what you’re going to do to lose the weight of financial worry. Post a comment here or on the Empire Life Facebook page. You can also help support Pathways to Education if you share one of our posts with the hashtag #EmpireFLM this month. Every time someone uses the hashtag in November, we’ll donate .25 cents to Pathways to Education. Take the challenge: how will you lose financial weight? Leave a comment.

 

Take the Financial Weight Loss Challenge

Piggy bank with workout headbandMost people spend more time planning their next vacation than planning their finances. I’m passionate about travel, but I’m equally as passionate about taking control of your finances.

This was instilled into me long before I started working in the financial services industry. I remember my Dad saving his quarters, dimes and nickels in piles of jars on his dresser to pay for our family vacation each year.

Since then, I’ve lived by a few simple money mantras: live within your means, pay yourself first, buy insurance to take care of your loved ones. But just like everybody else, I know there are other things I should be doing to improve my financial health.

That’s why I was so excited when we came up with the idea at work to promote the launch of our new social media channels and Financial Literacy Month with a Financial Weight Loss Challenge.

The idea is simple. Think about the one thing you know you should do about your finances that you’ve been putting off and take action in the month of November. We recently met with our financial advisor to increase our savings for the kids’ education and our retirement, but there’s two other things on my list: finishing a spreadsheet of all our policies and switching cell phone providers (anyone with any tips on this one, let me know!)

Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy you peace of mind.

This week’s #HappyAct is to take the #FinancialWeightLoss challenge. Take action this month to take control of your finances and lose the weight of whatever financial decision is weighing you down. Challenge your friends and family members by sharing the Financial Weight Loss challenge post on the Empire Life Facebook page (and like us while you’re there). We’re also running a contest where you can win either a $100 VISA gift card or iPad mini. Be sure to share what one action you are going to take.