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Gay Lea Foundation announces 12 new charitable grants

The Gay Lea Foundation is pleased to announce 12 new charitable grants in support of education, poverty relief, and community well-being in Canada and Africa.

Together totaling more than $157,000, the donations were approved by the Foundation’s Board of Directors in late October, just days after annual Co-op Week celebrations saw employees of Gay Lea Foods raise an incredible $89,000 for the Foundation and the community development projects it supports.

“Our Gay Lea Foundation was born from a genuine desire among our employees and farmer members to give back to local communities and those in need around the world,” says Foundation chair, Janet Ringelberg. “As a co-operative, our vision to Enrich communities co-operatively is engrained in everything we do – but the true, grassroots commitment to our shared values is on full display when our employees rally in support of the Gay Lea Foundation during Co-op Week each year.”

Since its creation in 2014, the Gay Lea Foundation has awarded more than $2.2 Million in charitable grants to more than 130 registered Canadian charities providing important humanitarian supports to communities in in Canada, Haiti, Central America, Asia, and Africa. Funding for the grants is provided by an annual $150,000 contribution from Gay Lea Foods and further subsidized through elective employee payroll deductions and organized employee fundraising activities held during Co-op Week.

“Much like Gay Lea Foods itself, the Gay Lea Foundation is about many people coming together for a common purpose,” says Gay Lea Foods President & CEO, Michael Barrett. “The impact we’ve been able to make is a testament to the power of co-operation and the strength of our co-operative values.”

Read on to learn about the latest projects supported by the Gay Lea Foundation and be sure to visit for more details about the impact the Gay Lea Foundation is making in Canada and around the world!



ANIDA works to empower communities in Canada, Ghana, Liberia and Jamaica through programs and projects designed to facilitate education, alleviate human suffering, provide relief from poverty, and elevate the standard of living for those in need. As part of a community-driven approach, Canadian programs emphasize addressing food insecurity. Furthermore, ANIDA’s international programs aim to provide sustainable income opportunities and access to quality education for children, women, and their communities. Visit

Project: Enhancing Women’s Empowerment in Liberia through gender-equality awareness and income-generating activities on a community farm

ANIDA’s agriculture extension project in the Tonzolomon community of Liberia aims to increase the knowledge and skills of local women in farming, improve food productivity and food security, and increase economic returns to the community. Plans include training 100 people (75 women) in commercial farming and processing and working to expand an existing one-acre farm currently organized as a Farmer-Based Organization (FBO) into a co-operative to deliver food and income to direct and indirect beneficiaries.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $17,950 to expand and increase the productivity of the existing farm in Tonzolomon, support the delivery of training and capacity-building workshops, promote gender equality, and spread program awareness in the local community.



Autism Ontario is the province’s leading source of information and referral on autism and has been one of the largest collective voices representing the autism community for almost 50 years. The registered charitable organization offers numerous direct support and social recreational programs for autistic children, youth, and adults, including educational resources, advocacy support and supports to parents and caregivers across Ontario. Visit

Project: North Region Virtual Cooking Classes

Created with the special learning needs of autistic adults in mind, the North Region Virtual Cooking Class is a three-week interactive cooking and meal preparation program designed to allow autistic adults living in rural and isolated communities in Ontario’s north to practice and develop social and functional life skills, including culinary and safety skills, in the comfort of their own home.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $1,862 to cover the costs of two separate three-week cooking classes for 20 autistic adults, including instructor fees and grocery store gift cards for participants to purchase all ingredients required.



The Canada Africa Community Health Alliance (CACHA) seeks to improve the health of rural communities in Africa by working with local groups to facilitate programs and initiatives for disease prevention, treatment, care, support, and education for the vulnerable in Bénin, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda. Visit

Project: The Tchukudu Women’s Training Centre Expansion

In March 2021, the Gay Lea Foundation approved a $27,641 grant to CACHA to support the expansion of the tiny Tchukudu Women’s Training Centre in the eastern city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Two months later, Goma was evacuated when the Mount Nyiragongo volcano erupted, forcing citizens to flee, and delaying the start of the project. When residents returned, many found their homes ransacked or destroyed, prompting a lengthy pivot by CACHA to help resettle the women and their families. A year and half later, with the worst of the humanitarian crisis over, CACHA’s attempts to re-initiate the training centre expansion have been impeded by skyrocketing building prices and a worldwide shortage of supplies.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $18,000 to support the increased cost of expanding the Tchukudu Women’s Training Centre to provide women with a safe, functional space to manufacture reusable sanitary pads and undertake other income generating activities to support themselves and their families.



Working closely with its 25 local branches across the province, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario, is a non-profit, charitable organization committed to improving the lives of all Ontarians through leadership, collaboration, and the continual pursuit of excellence in community-based mental health and addiction services. Visit

Project: The ‘In the Know’ Workshop

In the Know is an evidence-based mental health literacy training workshop that aims to build mental health knowledge and increase help-seeking among farmers and the wider agricultural community. Offered free of charge and funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the four-hour training workshop – which was supported by the Gay Lea Foundation when it launched in 2021 – delivers farmer-centered courses that have been shown to increase participants’ mental health knowledge and confidence in recognizing mental health struggles, speaking about mental health, and helping others who are struggling.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $25,000 to help CMHA Ontario continue delivering and growing the program to support Ontario’s farming and agricultural community.



Together with local community partners, Caring Partners Global (CPG) works to inspire hope and create lasting change in the impoverished communities of Matangwe, Western Kenya, through ongoing development work in health care, education, food security, and economic development. Visit

Project: The Maternal Child Quality Improvement Project

To improve access to quality care in the Matangwe region and reduce high maternal and infant mortality levels in Kenya, CPG is implementing a quality improvement plan at the remote Matangwe Hospital, which services 17 rural communities in the area. The project will see the construction of new maternity wing, complete with 10 pre- and post-natal beds, two labour and delivery rooms, a special care nursery and a pediatric ward. Successful implementation will also lead to an increase in prenatal visits, the early assessment of high-risk issues, and the attendance of skilled practitioners at all births.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $12,500 to outfit one of the new delivery rooms at the Matangwe Hospital with obstetrical and neonatal equipment and supplies, including a delivery bed, examination lights, an infant weigh scale, a vital signs monitor, and various medication, instrument and dressing carts.



Located in downtown Toronto, Christie Refugee Welcome Centre (CRWC) has provided emergency shelter, initial settlement services and follow-up support for refugee families from all ethnic, racial, or religious backgrounds since 1989. Visit

Project: The After-School Literacy, Music and Fitness Program for Homeless Refugee Children

The CRWC’s after-school literacy, music and fitness program provides free after-school and weekend programs for refugee children living in the shelter aged 4-12. The literacy component, offered twice a week, provides small group and individualized help to improve reading, writing, comprehension, and oral skills, while the music component, also offered twice a week, focuses on advancing musical literacy with a variety of instruments. The fitness component is offered once a week and focuses on building a foundation of physical literacy and teamwork.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $3,000 to purchase educational supplies and fitness equipment for the program, which helps lay a foundation for the successful integration of refugee children into Canadian society.



CODE works with local civil society organizations and ministries of education to enhance education and improve children’s literacy in some of the poorest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Their mission is to enable student learning by increasing access to qualified educators and locally relevant, high quality learning materials. Visit

Project: Girls’ Accelerated Learning Initiative in Liberia

CODE’s Girls’ Accelerated Learning Initiative (GALI) is an after-school program designed to support over-age girls so that they can advance to an age-appropriate grade. Created and implemented in partnership with the WE-CARE Foundation, the program has helped participating girls in Liberia make great strides academically, with upward of 75% of participating girls advancing two grades in one year.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $18,000 to support program delivery in 20 schools across three counties in Liberia in 2023, which includes professional development and training for 60 teachers, teacher stipends, textbooks, student workbooks that align with the training the teachers have received, and regular in-class support and monitoring.



Compassion House Foundation supports women from across Alberta and Western Canada who must leave their home for cancer care. They operate Sorrentino’s Compassion House, a 16-room haven in Edmonton that provides safe, comfortable, and affordable accommodations for women battling cancer, as well as post-treatment programs focused on continued healing. Visit

Project: Support a Stay Program

Having to leave her home, support network, and community to travel for cancer treatment can be physically, emotionally, and financially devastating to a woman and her family—but it doesn’t have to be. For only $35 per night, guests staying at Sorrentino’s Compassion House are provided with everything they need to ensure their stay is comfortable, including shuttle service to and from appointments and a community of support, allowing them to focus on what’s most important: healing.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $10,000 to help subsidize the actual operating cost of the House, which is $135 per night per suite, so that Compassion House Foundation may keep room fees low and continue to offer programs that reduce isolation and create lifelong connections for women battling cancer across Alberta and Western Canada.



Education 4 Change is a Waterloo, Ontario-based volunteer organization that works with local education and community leaders in the Somali region of Ethiopia to improve education, increase literacy and promote gender equality. Visit

Project: Education improvements in the Somali region of Ethiopia

The education system in the Somali region is characterized by poor quality, insufficient numbers of qualified teachers, and inadequate resources. Over the past 10 years, Education 4 Change has provided training for government-hired teachers, helped communities form parent councils, and provided much needed classroom supplies. Their current programs include a permanent library, mobile resource teachers, Girl’s Outreach workers, teacher training, adult literacy classes, and the construction of bathrooms for girls. 

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $25,000 to cover the salaries of two mobile research teachers, two librarians and four literacy teachers in Ethiopia for two years, allowing the Mobile Resource Teacher Program, Literacy Teacher Program and Hope Library to continue running and providing job stability for the staff in Ethiopia.



With the help of many volunteers, the Ontario Christian Gleaners trim, dry and package donated surplus produce into nutritious dried vegetable mixes that are given to mission and relief and development organizations for distribution around the world. Visit

Project: Basket cleaning and sanitation

At the Gleaners’ facility in Cambridge, Ontario, special baskets are used to bring produce to volunteers for cleaning and trimming, while others are used to transport the cleaned and trimmed vegetables to the dicing machine. Under the current system, baskets are taken outside to be washed with a pressure washer (weather permitting) or lined-up inside the warehouse to be sprayed with a hose – a labour-intensive, often messy solution that uses an excess amount of water.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $7,200 to purchase a specialized, water-efficient basket washer to keep the produce baskets clean and sanitary.



The Raw Carrot Soup Enterprise is a non-denominational community program that exists under the Charitable Status of the Paris Presbyterian Church. As a social franchise focused on eradicating poverty and marginalization for individuals living with disabilities and mental illness, they’re “stirring up” change in local communities through their gourmet soup, handcrafted by those who struggle with barriers to traditional employment. Visit

Program: Product development and promotion

Since 2014, The Raw Carrot has created permanent part-time employment for 32 individuals living with disabilities and mental illness, but low margins and rising costs have limited the number of hours the staff are able to work. To increase sustainability and working hours, organizers are looking to refine and launch new products, and invest in a strategy to increase visibility and product sales, which fund the salaries of Raw Carrot employees.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $9,000 to support the development of new products with higher profit margins (including shelf stable products), explore product packaging, and create go-to-market and promotional strategies.



Wellness and Emotional Support (WES) for Youth Online has been providing free, virtual counselling to Ontario youth ages 13-24 since 2013. Available through email, live chat, and video services, the service allows youth to connect with a professional counsellor by self-referral, regardless of their financial situation, physical location, privacy concerns or public health restrictions. Visit

Project: Online Counsellor Capacity Enhancement

The isolating implications of the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a surge of demand for mental health supports and mental illness prevention programs. WES for Youth’s Online Counsellor Capacity Enhancement Initiative will help ensure the organization is well equipped with additional virtual counselling staff to support the increase in youth registrants.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $10,000 to fund additional virtual counselling staff and support the creation and distribution of print materials for schools designed to help youth find success and build the foundation for better mental health.

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