On December 22, 1881, the first street lights came on in the city of Edmonton, illuminating Jasper Avenue between 96 Street and 103 Street thanks to a power company started up by a few local entrepreneurs. Today, more than 125 years later, that company – EPCOR – has grown substantially, providing not only power but water and wastewater services as well. It’s also expanded into three provinces and three U.S. states, providing services to about 1.9 million customers. But one thing remains the same: it continues to shine a light in our community.
EPCOR’s 125th anniversary milestone provided it with a significant opportunity. “The official birthday was October 23, 2016, but we thought it was important to dedicate the full year to celebrating, to make sure we were recognizing our employees and also thanking customers and the community for their support,” says John Elford, senior vice-president at EPCOR.
The company also chose to mark its anniversary with a generous $125,000 donation to United Way’s All in for Youth initiative, launched this fall. The program helps students get the support they need to be successful in school, which aligns closely with EPCOR’s corporate giving philosophy. “Our focus in the community is on supporting socially vulnerable children and youth in moving out of the cycle of poverty by focusing on education,” says Elford. “We want to make a lasting impact over time and that really came down to making sure those most at risk have the tools and supports they need to stay in school and to be successful. ”
EPCOR has been working closely with United Way for a number of years and was excited to see this wraparound and collaborative community initiative come forward. “United Way really is a leader in collaboration and we were excited by this opportunity which brings great organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters and E4C together to work towards a common goal. It made sense to want to be part of that and to do what we can to help it get off the ground,” says Elford.
Having a partner like EPCOR on board will have a positive effect on overall investment in the program. “We consider EPCOR one of our closest partners,” says Sheldon Smart, director of corporate partnerships at United Way of the Alberta Capital Region. “EPCOR brings an immense amount of value because they hold a very prominent position in the community, so I think when they lend their support to anything, it draws a lot of attention to the program and it lends a lot of credibility to the work that United Way is doing.”
The support for this latest initiative builds on a longstanding relationship with United Way. EPCOR also has an annual workplace campaign that has been going strong since 1993, raising just under $6 million in total over the years. This year’s campaign raised more than half a million dollars for United Way, exceeding its goals. “We’re in almost constant contact with them year-round discussing different programs and opportunities and ways that we can partner together to effect change in the community,” says Smart.
It’s all part of a common goal to make the community a better place. “Many of our employees live and work here and we’re a part of the community and we want to see every Edmontonian have the chance to thrive,” says Elford. And while the 125-year milestone gave the company a chance to reflect on its past, it also provided an opportunity to look ahead to the future – one it hopes will be poverty free.