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Gay Lea Foundation passes $1 million-dollar charitable giving mark

Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Limited (“Gay Lea Foods”) held its 61st Annual General Meeting (AGM) of shareholders in Mississauga, Ontario, on January 28, 2020, where Chair, Rob Goodwill announced that the co-operative’s charitable foundation has officially granted more than $1 million in support of poverty relief, education and community development projects since it was created in 2014.

The announcement was a high point in the day’s meeting, affirming the ongoing commitment of Gay Lea Foods, its members and its employees to enriching communities in Canada and around the world, even in the height another tumultuous year for the Canadian dairy industry.

To read the full AGM 2020 press release, click here.

Details of the 15 new grants approved by the Gay Lea Foundation in the first of two funding rounds in 2020, as announced at the AGM, can be found below. Read on to learn more about these organizations, the unique projects they’ve undertaken to cultivate hope for those who need it most, and how Gay Lea Foods is making a difference for people and families around the world!



The Caledonia Agricultural Society works to educate, entertain and further the knowledge of the importance of agriculture and rural heritage by supporting and providing facilities to encourage activities and events in Caledonia; developing programs that address the needs of the local agricultural community; and, sponsoring the Caledonia Fair, a 147-year-old annual community gathering that promotes agricultural education.

Project: The Riverside Exhibition Centre

Currently in its final stage of construction, the new Riverside Exhibition Centre on the Caledonia Fairgrounds is designed for community use with a large open space, stage, education room and commercial kitchen. The new centre will be the only facility in the rapidly growing region capable of hosting large community events – encouraging residents to “stay and play local” – and will act as a venue for educational, health and wellness, arts and cultural programs in the region.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $4,551 to purchase a new refrigerator for the facility’s commercial kitchen.



Grey Bruce Mental Health and Addictions provides programs and services that support the resilience and recovery of people experiencing mental disorders, and works to enhance, maintain, and promote the mental health of all individuals in Grey and Bruce counties.

Program: The Puck Pig Hockey Team

The Puck Pig hockey team, based in Owen Sound, is comprised of players from Grey and Bruce counties aged 16 and older, of all skill levels, who are living with or have experienced a mental health and/or addiction issue. Now in its 30th year, the team provides players with an opportunity to play the game they love while reaping the benefits of physical exercise, comradery and emotional support.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $3,000 to support the purchase of ice time and hockey equipment (which is lent out or given to players when needed), allowing players with limited incomes to participate.



Candace House is a new and first-of-its kind place that provides support to victims and survivors of violent crime. The home-like day refuge, located within one block of the Law Courts in Winnipeg, offers families impacted by the murder of a loved one and attending court proceedings with a place of comfort and safety, where staff offer compassionate and caring emotional, social, and practical support, as well as court accompaniment and access to additional resources and referrals.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $5,000 to provide snacks, food and drinks for guests, ensuring the availability of healthy food during court recesses.



CODE (formerly the Canadian Organization for Development through Education), is an international development agency that works to enable student learning by increasing access to qualified educators who are equipped with locally relevant, high quality learning materials.

Project: Reading Ghana

Reading Ghana is a six-year initiative designed to enhance literacy in under-resourced rural schools in the Ashanti region of Ghana, where only half of primary school teachers are trained and there are few, if any, supplementary reading books for students. The program, which began in 2016, provides teachers with intensive training in child-centred learning and ensures each participating school receives 350 culturally-appropriate reading books. The program also facilitates school visits from a Mobile Library Van and supports reading and essay writing competitions to build a culture of literacy in participating schools.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $15,000 to support the project’s goals in 2020, including the procurement and distribution of culturally-relevant books for eight new schools in the Ashanti region, training for 24 new teachers and eight librarians, and monitoring and assessment activities.



Community Living North Halton works in partnership with families and communities to provide supports and services for more than 630 children and adults with developmental disabilities in north Halton.

Program: The Lunch Box Café and Catering

The Lunch Box Café and Catering in Milton, Ontario is a social enterprise café and catering business that has been providing food service training to youth and adults with developmental disabilities since 2013, allowing them to learn new skills under the direction of qualified support staff and pursue employment in the local community.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $10,000 to replace the existing gas range in the café’s commercial kitchen.



The Dominican Starfish Foundation assists in providing food, clothing, shelter and basic needs for those suffering in poverty in the Dominican Republic.

Project: Phase 2 Construction of the Community Center in Javillar

In 2017/2018, the Foundation completed the Phase 1 construction of a community center in the impoverished community of Javillar. The center currently serves as a distribution center where community members can access essential needs for their families, including clothing, shoes, hygiene supplies, household items, school supplies and some food, and is also used for community events and classes. Phase 2 will include the addition of a second story to house dental and medical offices, classrooms, and a consignment shop for locals to sell their original products.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $10,000 to support the Phase 2 construction of the community center.



Formerly known as PATH Canada, Healthbridge works to harness Canadian expertise to improve nutrition and reproductive health in developing countries worldwide.

Project: Saving Lives of Mothers and Children in Nepal and Vietnam

Working together with local partners and governments, Healthbridge is working to address the health needs of vulnerable women and children in disadvantaged and geographically remote areas of Nepal and Vietnam by working together with local government authorities and health workers to provide training, skills development, ongoing supportive supervision and community-based education.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $5,000 to support direct program costs.



Home Horizon works to transform the lives of youth at risk of homelessness in the Southern Georgian Bay area by providing them with the opportunity to rebuild their lives and achieve their full potential.

Program: Essential Life Skills Training Program

The Essential Life Skills Training Program provides in-house and outreach counselling and training to youth in crisis aged 16-24, to impart the knowledge they need to gain lead more independent, healthy lives.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $5,000 to purchase food and supplies, and support the hiring of specialized counselors, legal advocates and job skills trainers.



JACC provides financial assistance to seriously ill, financially disadvantaged Ontario children and their families for emergency household expenses, groceries, respite care, various forms of physical therapy for disabled children, medications not covered, medical supplies and more.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $5,000 to provide physical therapy for 3-5 disabled children (speech, occupational, or physiotherapy), which is an out-of-pocket expense.



With 690 members, NorWest Co-op Community Health is the only health co-op in Manitoba providing health care and community development support to residents of the Inkster neighbourhood in Winnipeg.

Program: NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre

A food security resource centre that offers dignified food access programs, hands-on cooking and gardening programs and support for people living with the experience of poverty and marginalization.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $10,000 to support the community lunch program, which runs three days a week and serves more than 10,000 meals a year.



Shelter Them Poverty Relief strives to ensure that vulnerable and underprivileged children in Rwanda are integrated in an environment that meets their growth and development needs through sponsorship programs that support the provision of food, shelter and healthcare.

Program: Safe Water Initiative for the Children & Families of Gateko Village

Shelter Them has successfully completed the construction of a community centre in Gateko Village, but there is no water supply in the community and the nearest water source is unsafe, and over three kilometers away. The Safe Water Initiative aims to build a well to supply water to the centre and the approximately 700 residents of Gateko Village.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $8,100 to complete the construction of a well at Shelter Them’s community facilities in Gateko Village, Bugasera region, Rwanda.



Shine Through The Rain helps those affected by life-threatening illnesses by providing guidance, support, and financial aid to those in need.

Project: Rural Rainy-Day Grocery & Shelter Program

The Rural Rainy-Day Grocery & Shelter Program addresses some of the unique needs patients face when living in rural areas, such as travel to appointments, parking fees, hotel stays, restaurant meals among others.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $5,000 to support the program, which provides between $100 and $1,000 per patient, per year, in the form of grocery gift cards and/or past-due rent and utility payments.



A worldwide not-for-profit based in Canada and operating out of Kenya that provides agricultural and nutrition training and development programs.

Project: School Partnership Project

Thrive currently partners with 46 schools across East Africa where students and educators are supported to create and maintain sustainable Life Gardens that reduce the school’s food costs, increase nutrition and health for students and school administration and provide a source of revenue generation for students to purchase school supplies.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $12,000 to expand the project to eight additional schools, providing supplies, tools, seeds and training.



Wilfrid Laurier University’s Faculty of Education developed the Educator and Leadership Institute (ELI) to build teaching and leadership capacity in communities globally. The sustainable education program launched in Haiti in 2016, with support from the Gay Lea Foundation in 2019.

Program: ELI Nepal

ELI expanded to Nepal in April 2019, with a vision to maximize professional development for 1000 teachers and 100 principals in the Helambu region over the next five years, thus impacting over 100,000 students. The first 5-day Educator & Leadership Institute was held in April 2019 and involved 20 leaders from Ontario training 90 Nepali educators from 10 schools.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $25,000 to support a 5-day Educator & Leadership Institute for 200 educators in 2020.



Established in 1973, Wyndham House provides critical housing supports and associated services related to food, healthcare and more to over 500 homeless and at-risk youth across five sites in Guelph & Wellington county.

Program: Eat to Succeed

The Eat to Succeed Partnership Program supports the provision of more than 100 healthy meals each day across all five Wyndham House program sites, helping to ensure all youth in need get the nutrition they need to move from crisis to stability.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $4,000 to be a one-month Food Security Partner.  


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