The new year typically signals a decline in demand at the Calgary Food Bank — but this year has been unusual.
“In January 2019, we have noticed a 47 per cent increase in individuals coming,” said Shawna Ogston with the organization on Wednesday.
Food donations are critical but in-kind donations — like the one from Calgary-based Link Energy and its owner Wayne Burke — can make a huge difference in helping meet unexpected increases in demand.
With product and labour included in Burke’s donation, the food bank has saved nearly $130,000 in the year since the lights were installed.
It’s not the typical kind of donation the food bank sees, but the reason behind it — perhaps surprisingly — is.
WATCH: Calgary business owner Wayne Burke discusses the kindness of a man who helped his family through tough times when he was growing up.
Growing up in Montreal, Burke’s parents couldn’t always afford the necessities.
“My parents worked extremely hard and sometimes, it just isn’t enough, no matter how hard you work,” said Burke, who has also retrofitted food banks in Edmonton and Fort McMurray.
At times, the family would have to rely on the local food bank and a kind neighbour for electricity.
He said those lean times and the support his family received helped shape the core values of his business.
“Do the right thing, stay hungry, stay humble, work hard, play hard and give,” recited Burke.
“Whenever someone is going through a better period in their life, they want to make sure they’re giving back to the food bank that supported them or their family and Wayne is the perfect example of that,” Ogston said.
WATCH: Calgary entrepreneur Wayne Burke discusses moving to Vancouver for a job opportunity at 23. Six months later, he was broke and sleeping on the floor of the office he ran. It’s the kindness of the cleaning lady that he’s grateful for during that rough time.
It’s the first time Burke has shared his personal story publicly. He admitted that, initially, he was embarrassed to but felt it was important to help remove the stigma of using social services like the food bank.
“I also want to make sure to say, ‘It’s OK. It’s OK to ask for support, to reach out,'” Burke said.
“The people at the Calgary Food Bank and all the food banks that I’ve ever been a part of working with are some of the most kindhearted, sensitive and considerate people that you can meet.”