Today, November 15th, is National Philanthropy Day, a day across Canada and globally that celebrates philanthropy, defined as “the love of humankind.” Not only is it a day but a grassroots movement to increase public interest and awareness of the importance of philanthropy, as well as knowledge on giving, volunteering and engagement at the charitable level so people can practice effective philanthropy.

This year’s theme is, ‘Harvest of Hope’, which represents the abundant potential and positive impact that philanthropic efforts can bring to communities in need. It symbolizes the collective power of fundraising professionals and nonprofit organizations to sow seeds of change, nurture growth, and reap the rewards of transformation. The theme celebrates the idea that by working together, we can create a bountiful and sustainable future for those who rely on the support of compassionate individuals and organizations.

Brant Food For Thought is a thriving charitable organization because of the ongoing support of funders, donors, contributors and many community partners. During the months of November and December, Brant Food For Thought would like to highlight community partnerships that continue to make a tangible difference for children and youth in our community through the support of universal student nutrition programs.

FirstOntario Credit Union is more than just a financial institution. They care about the communities where they do business and believe that by being hands on contributors and bringing awareness to important initiatives, everyone benefits. FirstOntario Credit Union is an award-winning example of philanthropy and corporate social responsibility at its finest. Since 2014, FirstOntario has invested more than $2.3 million into student nutrition programs and is happy to work with dedicated partners that include: Brant Food for Thought, Halton Food for Thought, Haldimand-Norfolk REACH (Child Nutrition Network), Hamilton Bulldogs Foundation, Hamilton Tastebuds, Niagara Nutrition Partners and Ontario Student Nutrition Program (OSNP) Southwest Region.

Food security is one of the pillars of focus that FirstOntario supports across our communities and they value the work of organizations like Brant Food For Thought that exist to ensure that students have access to healthy food to support their learning and growth. Lloyd Smith, CEO FirstOntario Credit Union, expressed their corporate philoshophy. “It’s important for our credit union to reinvest in our communities, and supporting the health, well-being and learning of children is critically important. We believe supporting student nutrition programs through dollars and employee volunteer support is a priority and a long-standing commitment for our credit union. Our relationship with our student nutrition program community partners makes a huge impact on our communities and we are committed to strengthening our community and reinvesting our profits where it makes a difference, especially when it comes to children and food security.”

Recently, FirstOntario Credit Union was awarded a $50,000 grant from EQ Bank in recognition of the credit union’s long standing support for student nutrition programs. They received the top prize through EQ Bank’s Empowering Your Community program. The full award will be directed entirely by FirstOntario to the community partners that deliver student nutrition programs, to help ensure students can continue to count on healthy snacks and breakfasts while at school.

FirstOntario Credit Union is a team player and believes in working collaboratively and connecting with like-minded organizations that help to build and grow the community. With food costs on the rise, along with the challenges of continuing to deliver quality programming, FirstOntario Credit Union granted $31,200 to Brant Food For Thought for the school year 2023-2024 to continue supporting student nutrition programs in Brantford and Brant. An additional $8,333 as part of the EQ Bank Award and $5,000 through the Hamilton Bulldogs Foundation was also granted, bringing their total investment to date, in our area alone, to well over $266,000. For the current school year, Brant Food For Thought is projected to support 58 universal student nutrition programs, with over 11,000 children and youth benefitting weekly, and an anticipated 1.2 million healthy snacks and meals being served this year alone.

Funding is only one aspect of FirstOntario Credit Union’s investment. They provide hands to help through their Blue Wave employee volunteers. FirstOntario also avails partners of their Community Lounge at the Tim Hortons Field during Hamilton Ti-Cats season. This provides a great opportunity for community partners to raise awareness of the need for student nutrition programs in schools and engage with fans in a meaningful way.

Brant Food For Thought recently kicked off the annual Apple Crunch Week at the end of October with FirstOntario Credit Union Blue Wave employees on hand at Brantview Apples and Howell Cider Co, an 8th generation local apple orchard. FirstOntario Credit Union sponsored the purchase of 75 bushels or more than 9,000 fresh local apples and helped to deliver to over 30 participating schools, who collectively raised $9,300 in support of their respective student nutrition programs.

It is a long established philosophy that it takes a village to raise a child. Brant Food For Thought is extremely grateful to FirstOntario Credit Union for this tremendous partnership, and for continuing to give back in so many ways to the communities where they live, work and play. Thank you FirstOntario Credit Union for being a valuable contributor in our village of supporters and for continuing to make a tangible difference in the lives of children and youth through your investment in universal student nutrition programs.