Since it was officially dubbed a city in 1894, Calgary has had a lot of nicknames: Cowtown, C-town, Stampede City are only a few. In 2000, the unofficial prairie capital of Canada got its most recent and most appropriate nickname: The Heart of the New West.
Calgary, in short, has maintained its intimacy and quaint charm, while still welcoming hundreds of new residents and refugees each year.
In fact, in 2016 alone, besides the 300 refugees that come the southern Alberta city each year, the city of Calgary welcomed an additional 2,000 Syrian refugees who were escaping violence in their home country and refugee camps in the Middle East and Europe.
While Alberta and Calgary especially are in the midst of economic uncertainty and the highest unemployment rate in a decade, Calgarians embraced Canada’s newest citizens with open arms and hearts.
The city known for its generous heart also became a rallying centre and refuge for residents of Fort McMurray in late May when wildfires ravaged their city. As the unmanageable fires tore through Fort McMurray, Calgarian residents and businesses heeded the call and embraced their provincial neighbours.
While the spirit of community and generosity is rampant in the residents of Calgary, it’s also the foundation for a number of the city’s businesses. Strategic Group, a real estate development firm established by Calgarian businessman and philanthropist Riaz Mamdani, is the personification of corporate giving and philanthropy.
When Syrian refugees and Fort McMurray evacuees needed homes, Strategic Group opened vacant units in their various multi-unit complexes to those in need. Understanding that financing may be an issue, CEO Riaz Mamdani offered a number of the units fully furnished and free of charge.
Most recently, Strategic Group held its fifth annual Let’s Eat! campaign, which facilitates food drives and donations for the Calgary Food Bank and the Edmonton Food Bank.
Not only was this year the fifth anniversary of the program that brings in thousands of pounds of food and cash donations, this year’s Let’s Eat! Campaign aimed to help resource strapped food banks in the city restock their shelves.
“Let’s Eat! has been extremely successful over the last five years. But, this year with so many Calgarians in need due to the economy it was important to us that we go above and beyond,” said Riaz Mamdani. “Year-to-year, the campaign continues to grow and make a difference to those in need.”
In order to up the ante this year, Mamdani introduced an internal hamper competition within Strategic Group, which pitted team against team for the great cause of collecting non-perishable food items.
The week-long event, which ran from June 13th through June 20th, collected more than 5,400 pounds of food for area food banks. In true philanthropic spirit, Riaz Mamdani matched each pound of food collected with a dollar which was also donated to the food bank.
The massive donation couldn’t come at a better time.
Last year, Calgary food bank use was up 20 percent and that number is expected to grow this year as the Albertan economy slowly recovers from its economic instability.