April 15, 2015

Happy National Volunteer Week!

At BB4CK, we love volunteers. They make our work possible, and in our opinion, every week of the year should be devoted to celebrating their efforts. Volunteer and administration coordinator Wendy Treschel says BB4CK is able to have a huge impact in Calgary because of volunteers.

“Many come to the program because they wouldn’t want their own children to go hungry, or because they remember what it felt like to be a hungry child. Our volunteers are so committed that even if they are unable to help during the day, they help with office work, social media, casinos and various other jobs. We couldn’t do it without them.”

Happy National Volunteer Week! Here’s a tribute to the work of BB4CK volunteers.

Video produced by Urban Revolver

Want to find out why BB4CK volunteers are so passionate about the work they do? Find out how you can get involved.

April 15, 2015

2015 Matching Gift Challenge

Video produced by Shannon Hewlko

Tanya Koshowski, executive director of BB4CK, says the Prosser Charitable Foundation catalyzed the Matching Gift Challenge years ago, and has been helping BB4CK meet its goal of ensuring there are no hungry kids in Calgary. “The Matching Gift Challenge doubles your donation, which is amazing — but it’s about far more than numbers. It’s about giving children in Calgary the opportunity to learn, grow and play with confidence and energy. That’s the impact a lunch can have.”

The Matching Gift Challenge runs from May 1 to June 15, 2015. Make your donation at the BB4CK Canada Helps page.

February 2, 2015

Agents of Change is redefining the real estate equation

Tracey Wood, co-founder of Agents of Change

Tracey Wood has two goals, both lofty. One is to ensure people buying or selling houses have positive experiences in the real estate market. The other is to create a sustainable, resilient revenue stream for charities. Fortunately, she’s found a way to make the two goals work together.

Wood is the co-founder of Agents of Change, a company that provides custom real estate agent referrals. What makes Agents of Change unique is not that it collects a percentage of the referred agent’s commission—this is standard in the real estate industry—but that it donates a substantial portion of that percentage to charity.

The idea arose when Wood relocated to Calgary with her family and, after years as a CEO in the technology sector, decided to pursue a real estate career. “It was born out of necessity, like all good ideas. I thought it would be a way of networking in a new city, and I’ve always done charitable work.”

How Agents of Change works

In a nutshell, a client approaches Agents of Change for a realtor recommendation (they may require a second language or a particular specialty). Agents of Change combs through a roster of qualified agents until it finds a match. Once the real estate transaction closes, Agents of Change collects 30% of the referred agent’s commission, taking 10% to sustain its operations. The remaining 20%—normally amounting to about $2,000—goes directly to a charity of the client’s choice.

If clients aren’t sure which nonprofit or charity to support, Agents of Change can provide custom suggestions here, too, based on the client’s values and priorities. Ultimately, the choice is with the client. Wood says clients think very carefully about where they want these dollars to go. “We’re creating what I call accidental philanthropists. Some people come to us just for the agent referral, but it sparks introspection. It introduces people to the world of philanthropy in a really substantial way. They have to think about how to direct their funds, and they want it to be meaningful.”

Building a network

For charities, it costs nothing to join Agents of Change as a charitable partner. The charities receive marketing tools (including a unique microsite where clients can learn about what they do) and guidance. For Agents of Change, working with charities allows them to leverage existing networks and spread the word farther. And clients often introduce Agents of Change to charities. “The best part of my job is to call a charity who may never have heard of us and tell them I have a cheque for them.”

What’s next

Wood spent 2014 proving the Agents of Change concept, and raised almost $80,000. She sees a bright future for the organization, estimating that in five years it can realistically put $20 million into the charitable sector, which would make it the third largest funder of nonprofits in the City of Calgary. While the organization currently focuses on Calgary, in 10 years, she’d like to see Agents of Change represented in 50 cities.

What’s the secret to Wood’s success? “Surround yourself with amazing people. That’s always been my philosophy.”

BB4CK is an Agents of Change charitable partner.

January 28, 2015

Meet BB4CK Kitchen Coordinator Stephanie Gauthier


Each weekday morning, Stephanie Gauthier arrives at the BB4CK downtown kitchen at 5:30 a.m., so that she can get an hour of prep done before the volunteers arrive. By noon, hundreds children in schools across the city are eating the lunches Gauthier and her crew have made.

The kitchen is small, with banks of humming fridges, stainless steel tables and a prep area of donated industrial coolers with woodblock tops. It is spotlessly clean and meticulously organized, and a large map covers one wall, with coloured stickers showing the locations of all the schools the kitchen serves. Gauthier’s tiny office is also a dry goods pantry.

She has been helming the kitchen for almost six months, after moving to Calgary from Edmonton with a BSc. in nutrition and a wish to work with children and food. “I was just Googling lunch programs in Calgary and found the Brown Bagging website. I read the testimonials and it just amazed me and drew me in.”

Gauthier contacted the organization to offer her services, either as an employee or a volunteer. Shortly afterward, long-time BB4CK Kitchen Coordinator Mimi Ip decided to move on, and the organization offered the role to Gauthier.


Gauthier works with a team of regular and guest volunteers. The “core” volunteers (who come to the kitchen weekly) arrive at 6:30 a.m. to help prepare egg and tuna salad and to cut meat and cheese. By 8 a.m., a corporate volunteer group arrives, and Gauthier hands out aprons and nametags and runs over kitchen guidelines and hygiene rules.

Then, everyone makes lunches. Volunteer drivers start shipping lunches by 9:30 a.m., and then the volunteers work together to prep for the next day. “We might peel eggs, pack veggie and fruit bags and bags of pretzels. Today we made cookie dough that we’ll bake tomorrow.”

Today Gauthier’s crew made 900 lunches; tomorrow they’ll need to make 500. Gauthier must anticipate quantities, prep appropriately and ensure supplies–which come from the Calgary Food Bank, Canadian Wholesale, Chongo’s, The Italian Bakery and Bles Wold–are adequate.

Despite the logistical challenges of running the kitchen and overseeing volunteers, Gauthier makes time to bake whenever she can. “Last week I made cheese biscuits, and sometimes I make Rice Krispie squares, banana bread or energy balls. The last school week of December we made and decorated 2,300 Christmas cookies. I’d like to do something festive for each season.”

Gauthier says one of the most pleasant moments of the day comes at 10 a.m., when everyone stops for a coffee and snack break. It’s a time for the group to share stories and inspiration, nourishing not only their bodies, but their motivation to continue making a difference in Calgary. Gauthier says every day, connections form between people who may never have crossed paths otherwise. “It’s so neat to see the different groups mingle. It doesn’t matter where they work or what their background is—in the kitchen, everyone has a good time.”

Help a child

No matter how big or small your contribution, each dollar you donate will provide lunch for a hungry child.

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