We are always happy to see new faces out at Homeless for a Night every year, but there’s something extra special about seeing people come back year after year. The Foster Park Brokers’ team “FPB Homies” has become an H4AN institution!
Here’s an interview with Mariina Heinonen, Partner and Human Resources Consultant at Foster Park Brokers Inc. that we shared last year. She has been the team leader of the FPB Homies for six years and has been participating in Homeless for a Night for 15 years!
Read what Mariina had to say about her experience with H4AN, and how she has turned it into a team-building initiative for her employees.
Q. What inspired you to participate in Homeless for a Night?
A. In 2000, YESS was our charity of choice for an organization that I worked for back then. It was there that I met Deb Cautley and realized how important of a job YESS was doing. I grew up in the “inner city” and lived in low rental housing at the time (which is where the event is being held, believe it or not). There were a number kids that could have used this type of help/service from my community, but it was not an option back in the 70s. What YESS does is phenomenal and I truly feel that the work being done is so important.
Q. How many years have you and FPB been involved in Homeless for a Night?
A. This will be my 14th year! In 2010 when I was campaigning at Foster Park Brokers, people started saying they wanted to be part of it…and the next thing I knew, we had a team! Our group recognizes the importance of giving back to our community and especially one that is local, in our backyard. Our president came out a couple of times as well and that speaks volumes!
Q. In 2014, your team, FPB Homies, raised $4932, surpassing your fundraising goal of $4000! How did you do it?
A. We asked through a company e-mail, Facebook, and Linkedin. We challenged each other to see who could raise the most funds. It also helps that our company matches personal donations up to 3 times. Some of us have had barbecues and invited their friends for a fee to raise money for the event. We have even had a change jar, but the best way is just to ask.
Q. How do you inspire your employees to get on board with H4AN and to raise pledges?
A. Our past participants mostly use e-mail and word-of-mouth. They love the event and have no problem talking about how great it is and what a worthwhile organization YESS is. For raising pledges we have a couple of advocates who really try to get the other team members to raise more money!
Q. What is the most challenging part of H4AN?
A. The most challenging part can be staying warm sometimes–and the 6 am wakeup call! It puts life on the streets into perspective–and let’s be realistic– we have it easy at H4AN! It is hard to imagine what those kids go through every day and especially when it is cold and not easy to find food or shelter. The city is not a pleasant place, especially at night and there are not very many safe places to go. We have tried to imagine what we would do if we did not have a homes to go to… where would a person stay or sleep? How would we find food? A lot of these kids don’t make the choice to leave home because it seems like a good idea: their circumstances dictate it. Our hearts go out to them and the challenges they face every day.
Q. What about your favourite part?
A. The best part is the seeing the number of people who participate. It is a great opportunity to meet others in the community who believe in the same thing we do. Hearing a former client’s perspective is thought-provoking and really drives it home. And the entertainment and fire pit are always an enjoyable part of the evening as well!
Q. How did FPB’s participation in H4AN strengthen your team and build camaraderie among your employees?
A. It really makes our folks realize how lucky they are… for their families, their careers, and the homes they have built. We have talked about our own upbringings… some good, some not so easy. It’s amazing how open people are about their lives and we really do learn a lot about each other (without judgement). It also gives us a common goal and that brings people together in ways that they normally might not. There are those who champion different things to do as well… play cards, toss a football around, etc. and that gets everyone in the group involved.
Q. How does being involved with this event align with the corporate culture at Foster Park Brokers?
A. Foster Park Brokers has always believed that family comes first, and if we can’t support something that really speaks to that… well then what is the point? FPB has proven that time and again to our folks who have had family crises. It is easy to give back to an organization that believes the value in this as well. They really believe in these kids and continue to provide them with support and opportunities to move forward; whether that is finding a home within YESS or returning home to their family, it is the same belief we carry that family comes first.
Thanks to organizations like Foster Park Brokers Inc. and the efforts of the FPB Homies, YESS is able to support youth who are at risk and experiencing homelessness in Edmonton. You and your employees can help too! Involving your employees in giving back through Homeless for a Night is a great way to strengthen camaraderie among your team members while also helping youth facing difficult realities.