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Why Give the Gift Horse?

The benefits of being charitable

Employees from the six Revera properties in Calgary participate in the September build day with Habitat for Humanity Canada, courtesy of Revera.

We’ve been taught to not look a gift horse in the mouth, but this month we have approached Calgary businesses to reveal their motivations behind philanthropic gestures. What are the benefits of giving back to the community?



For Tool Shed Brewing Company co-founders Graham Sherman and Jeff Orr, their relationship with social responsibility dates back to 2012 along their circuitous journey to opening their brewery in 2014. Because the then provincial laws made it extremely difficult to start one, yet welcomed imported product, Sherman and Orr circumnavigated the regulation absurdity by shipping Alberta barley over the border to British Columbia, brewing it in that province and then importing their own beer at a surcharge back to Calgary.

“We quickly realized that the hurdles we had to overcome had a bigger cause at stake,” says Sherman. “Because of the prohibitive provincial laws, the amazing Alberta barley farmers were not getting their due credit, and we saw this as an opportunity to scream loud and proud about economic development through agriculture.” Provincial legislation was changed in 2013, making it possible for small craft breweries to open.  When a business is looking to give back to the community, it considers the resources of time, talent, treasure and ties that it can contribute. Already having the platform and momentum to incite change for the farmers, Tool Shed was excited about other causes it could use craft beer to support.

In fall 2018, Tool Shed and MitoCanada collaborated to create a special beer called Mito POWER, with the proceeds going to MitoCanada from each can of beer sold at liquor stores across Alberta. A kinetic relationship was formed when Sherman met MitoCanada founder Blaine Penny and his crew. Says Sherman, “I was gobsmacked at this group of people, at what they represent and what they’re trying to achieve. This is the type of charity you want to be supporting and the group of people you want to surround yourself with.”

In 2008, happy and healthy four-old-year Evan Penny suffered a brain injury during a routine appendectomy that left him a non-verbal quadriplegic. After Evan’s diagnosis of mitochondrial disease, his parents Blaine and Sarah founded MitoCanada to raise awareness, provide support for families and fund research.

Mito POWER was brewed with the natural energy ingredients of beetroot, guava and apricot. Calgary graphic designer Boyd Wiebe designed the awesome beer label of Blaine, looking like the superhero he is, wearing a battery cell to signify the compromised mitochondria in individuals with the genetic disease that diminishes the body’s ability to perform the high-energy functions of eating, breathing, speaking and moving.

Also wanting to be involved in the project, CRAFT Beer Market owners helped brew the beer at Tool Shed and hosted the beer launch party at its 10th Avenue location on December 5, 2018. Selecting MitoCanada as its charity partner for December, January and February, CRAFT served Mito POWER at its Alberta locations with proceeds going to the foundation.

“It’s important to us that the staff take tremendous pride in what we represent, not just putting alcohol on the market,” enthuses Sherman. “It’s a healthy place to be when your staff are creative and passionate about giving back.” Tool Shed also participated in MitoCanada’s Guinness World Record for the most runners linked together in a marathon in the 2017 Scotiabank Calgary Marathon. They are pumped for their next record-breaking project with MitoCanada – creating the biggest glass of beer in the world.


Offering quality living environments for seniors, it is beautifully fitting Revera helps provide safe, affordable homes for Calgary families. Revera owns or operates 500 properties – seniors’ apartments, independent living, assisted living, memory care and long-term care – across Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. In January 2018, the Mississauga-headquartered company formed a partnership with Habitat for Humanity Canada.

“Social responsibility makes us feel like we’re actually doing something that helps the community and we feel good about it because that’s really what we’re all about – helping people on a daily basis,” says Mike Eves, executive director of Revera-McKenzie Towne Retirement. This past September, 20 employees from the six Revera properties in Calgary participated in their second build for Habitat for Humanity.

Donning team T-shirts and safety gear, they shovelled gravel, put up drywall, painted, installed fencing and more. Eves, who was at the end of a shovel, says being part of a construction crew is a fulfilling and interactive way of contributing. “One of the nicest things is when you’re doing the build, the person who’ll be living in the house is also on site. You feel like a neighbour helping out another neighbour.” Revera also donates gently-used furniture from its properties to ReStore, which are then provided to the Habit for Humanity homes.

Businesses recognize that when employees are encouraged to express their creativity and become actively engaged in social causes they develop a sense of pride and enthusiasm for their place of employment, which, in turn, becomes so much more than that. For a recent Habit fundraiser, the staff at Revera-McKenzie Towne created a giant Monopoly game board in which citizens could purchase the town hall, church, businesses and other properties in the town. Now that’s a win for the Community Chest!



“Be kind whenever possible, and it’s always possible,” is the core value Canmore-based Rocky Mountain Soap Company lives by, inspiring them to make in-kind donations over the years. In the spirit of spreading positive vibes, in August it collaborated with Calgary lifestyle blogger Ryan Massel, a.k.a. Mr. Fabulous, and his Love Campaign in support of the LGBTQ+ community. As part of his LOVED Collection, Massel and Rocky Mountain Soap created a soap containing the main ingredient of palo santo, the sacred oil of transformation. “We donated the soap to share the message that we are all different in our own way and part of the same community. It’s about acceptance and love,” says co-owner Karina Birch.

As a natural progression of these campaign soaps, Rocky Mountain Soap introduced its Community Bar Program in October – $1 from the sale of its monthly, limited-edition bar of soap across its 13 western Canadian stores (10 in Alberta) will go toward organizations that support the preservation of nature and those that promote a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Since 2007, it has hosted the Women’s Run & Walk in Canmore and Burnaby, B.C., with proceeds over the past few years going to Olympic gold medallist Chandra Crawford’s Fast and Female national charity dedicated to empowering girls in sport.

Says Birch, “We all have our heads down working hard and putting a lot of effort into this business, and it feels good to push the pause button and lift our heads up and do some good.”

In January, Birch’s husband and co-owner Cam Baty will travel with a soap maker to Liberia to teach underprivileged communities how to make soap for sanitization purposes and to provide them with the skills to create a sustainable business. Rocky Mountain Soap has created similar projects with Project SHINE in Tanzania and India.