It wasn't just about a pat on the back for a job well done when Shell Canada invited the United Way and community groups that organization sponsors into their Fort St. John offices on the morning of Feb. 26.
Shell's northeast British Columbia staff were celebrating their $100,065 donation to the United Way, the result of a 2012 fundraising campaign that included a charity golf tournament, a fire truck pull and a payroll deduction drive whereby the company matches every dollar donated by a Shell employee, but they were also looking for the inspiration to top that performance with their 2013 campaign.
"I've been inspired by some of the stories I've heard," said Rej Tetrault, Shell's operations manager for northeast B.C.
Tetrault remarked many times that inspiration was the keyword of the day as the audience heard testimonials from groups such as the Literacy Society, which spoke of helping German and Russian settlers in Wonowon integrate themselves into the North Peace community through outreach English as a second language instruction, and Community Multicultural and Immigration Services, which told about their community kitchen program that helps new Canadians living in the region grow comfortable in Fort St. John through social interaction with each other.
"We heard from a small minority of them today," Tetrault said of the numerous organizations that receive support from the United Way.
"I feel that we have made a difference based on what I've heard today in terms of the impact," he continued.
"It inspires me. And inspires me to do more. To hear the stories – personal stories – about where we can help."
A young woman new to Fort St. John just last year told of how programs and services at the Women's Resource Society put her on the right track after a tough start in her new hometown.
Lori Slater of Spinal Cord Injury BC discussed the impact the generosity shown by Shell has had on that association through the United Way.
"We wouldn't be able to do that without your help," Slater said of programs that allow individuals with spinal cord injuries to continue to enjoy life in the community that they call home, even if that community is as cold and snowy as Fort St. John can be in the winter.
"It's extremely important to be involved in the United Way," said Dean Freeman, a lifelong resident of northeast B.C. who has led Shell's local efforts to support the United Way for the past four years.
"We have a large staff base," he added. "And what we can contribute back into the community is huge."
"The message is that we live in the community," said Tetrault.
"The people that work hard to develop those resources live here," he continued, adding that many of those employees also raise families in the region.
"My team – it's a local-based team."
Tetrault noted that Shell is fairly new to the area, their Groundbirch shale gas operation west of Dawson Creek being their most significant project in the region, but they are committed to contributing to the local communities from Tumbler Ridge to Fort Nelson through the United Way.
Niki Hedges of United Way Northern BC is very grateful for that support.
"United Way is about building healthy communities," said Hedges.
"We help flow funds to help support programs and services where there is a critical need," she continued. "So, the more that we build awareness in our community about the work of United Way and the long lasting impact – positive impact – that we have on large numbers of people in communities in northern B.C., we change people's lives. And people are helped and supported to become strong and stand on their feet in order to be able to be part of the community in which they live.
"I think we all like to feel that what we do matters. And I strongly feel that, through supporting United Way, you know that your money is going to have a strong, long lasting impact that will help the most amount of people in your community."
Tetrault said that Hedges is "one of the best coaches" for her constant encouragement during the fundraising campaign.
"It's not a relationship that I've had before," he continued.
"The energy that she brings to her role helps encourage us all to do more regardless of what companies we work for. We can all [make] a positive impact. As long as we're healthy and we have our families and we have secure employment, you look to give back and do more."
Hedges was clearly thrilled with the result of Shell's 2012 campaign that brought in over $100,000 after raising just under $13,000 in 2010 and over $56,000 in 2011.
"It's hard to describe that feeling when you realize that a group such as Shell Canada has pulled together in such a strong way, with terrific leadership from within, to raise $100,000," said Hedges.
"It is staggering," she added.
"We have terrific support in the community and Shell Canada is part of that. They're great partners."
"I was surprised," Freeman said of the funds raised in 2012.
Freeman said that the company was proud of their efforts at the midway point of the year, but still felt that they could do more, particularly since they had actually set a goal to exceed $100,000 for the year.
"What's going to take it to the next level?" he continued, recalling the discussion at that time.
"And when we worked with the United Way and brought in a guest speaker to talk about the Women's Resource [Society], it put a personal touch towards it. And then that personal touch inspired us to even go further. And when we saw the final tally, it was just like, 'Wow, we accomplished that as a group.' And the impact that that is going to have in the community is immense."
Shell is going to have to work hard to beat that record this year.
"We've got a lot of exciting things planned," said Freeman.
"2013 is going to be even better."