Desjardins celebrates Co-op Week with massive volunteering effort for youth groups

The credit union association has used the week to help organisations such as Auberges du cœur shelters for vulnerable young people

More than 7,000 staff from Desjardins Group have joined forces to help young people in a series of volunteer efforts to mark Canada’s Co-op Week (15-21 October).

Efforts by the credit union association include work by 250 of its workers to help residents at the 30 Auberges du cœur shelters for vulnerable young people, by carrying out chores and offering care packages. It is a network of 30 youth shelters across Quebec which provides shelter and support for more than 3,500 at-risk youth between the ages of 12 and 30, many of whom are homeless and most of whom haven’t finished high school.

Guy Cormier, president and chief executive at Desjardins Group, announced that, over the next three years, the Desjardins Foundation will be donating $90,000 to the scheme.

“Our young residents come from all walks of life. They struggle with issues caused by social isolation, emotional deprivation, violence, and mental and physical health problems,” said Michèle Noël, general manager of Auberges du cœur. “Many have dropped out of school and face financial insecurity. We can’t solve every problem, but we can be part of the solution.”

Elsewhere, Co-op Week initiatives to help young people in Ontario and Quebec saw more than 7,100 Desjardins officers, employees and retirees carry out volunteering efforts. And the organisation donated $1.5m to schools and groups that support youth.

Some of the projects Desjardins is involved in include:

  • Donation of pedal desks to three elementary schools in Châteauguay to help children with ADHD. Six other schools in the area will receive pedal desks in the next two years.
  • 370 elementary school students in the Ottawa Valley will attend a play by Théâtre Parminou called Pareil, pas pareille on the subject of inclusion and respecting differences.
  • Nine athletes will run a non-stop relay race covering 275 km of the Chemin du Roy to raise $20,000 for seven schools in towns and cities between Montreal and Lévis (Montreal, Repentigny, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Neuville, Quebec City, Lévis and one to determined).
  • The financial education program for young adults, Personal Finance: I’m in Charge, will be extended to Montreal’s south shore as well as L’Islet, Montmagny, Abitibi, Sept-Îles, Sorel-Tracy, Charlevoix, Charlevoix-Est, L’Île-aux-Coudres and Lévis.
  • As part of National Teen Driver Safety Week 2017,  hundreds of Desjardins employees made personal pledges to help keep teen drivers safe and to join the discussion on social media by using the hashtag #GetHomeSafe.
  • In uts 25th anniversary year, Desjardins Bank in Florida donated $2,500 to elementary school students in the Florida Keys, an area that was badly affected by Hurricane Irma.
  • Around 50 employees raised $5,000 to help two local schools in Lévis (Auberivière and Desjardins) make improvements to their schoolyards.
  • In partnership with the Refuge des jeunes de Montréal, employees at three Desjardins branches will be pitching in to help out in the kitchens, collecting and sorting food supplies, and cleaning the dormitories.
  • A number of student scholarships will be awarded – 2017, 185 caisses will award $874,000 in Desjardins Foundation scholarships to 481 students in Ontario and Quebec.

Mr Cormier added that in his 18 months at the head of Desjardins Group, he has reached out to young people in Ontario and Quebec.

“Many young people tell me that what they want most is for our society to make room for everyone,” he said. “They want to be accepted despite their differences. They also question an economic model that only values short-term profit, with no consideration for people or the environment. I share their concerns.”

The Desjardins Foundation is also using Co-op Week to encourage applications for the #DesjardinsFoundation Prizes. The program provides $450,000 in financial assistance, so people who work with kids can undertake projects with students from kindergarten through high school.

Desjardins Group officers and employees will vote on the projects that will receive up to $3,000 each. Prizes will be awarded in each region of Quebec and Ontario where Desjardins does business. Applications will be accepted until 5 p.m. on November 6, 2017. Last year, #DesjardinsFoundation Prizes supported 131 projects, benefiting 23,444 young people.