Each November, J.D. Irving, Limited (JDI) recognizes World Children's Day and the vital role children play in shaping our futures. This year, we were proud to make a donation of $5,000 to Unicef Canada. Like so many others, we want to build a world where every child is in school and learning, safe from harm and able to fulfill their potential. Our employees work with children of all ages through a significant set of programs and volunteerism.
We asked our employees how they feel their groups have contributed to the health, safety and enrichment of children this year, and we have some great stories to share!
PALS Celebrates 19th Year in January
PALS (Partners Assisting Local Schools) was conceived in 2000 by Mr. J.K. Irving, to address the needs and implications associated with students living in poverty. For 18 years, poverty reduction remains its central focus, though its programs have expanded to include a number of initiatives, all intended to make a positive impact on the life of a child and our communities at large.
"If we help the kids, and are successful, Saint John will be on the right path for the future," said Mr. J. K. Irving, in an August, 2018 interview. "It's a long road, but it's a good road."
PALS partnerships (the schools and their partners) have a positive impact on virtually every facet of school life – academic achievement, enrollment, school spirit, student behaviour and social skills, student motivation, sports activities, cultural awareness, and pride in being part of the school community.
"Schools in ASD-S (Anglophone South) are fortunate to be able to participate in the PALS program. We have over 30 participating schools and over 150 partners who so willingly offer their time and talents to our students," said Zoe Watson, Superintendent, ASD-S. "Partners provide special opportunities for students, act as mentors, and work with teachers to enhance curriculum and learning for students. Public education is about all of us working together and we value the role of PALS and all community partners in our District."
With nearly two decades of partnering, the PALS team has had the opportunity to watch students grow into adulthood and develop successful careers of their own. Matthew Chaisson is one such graduate, now working in Contractor Sales with Kent Building Supplies.
"Having been mentored through the PALS program, I have seen tremendous personal growth, he said, "At some future date, I look forward to being able to mentor others as my mentoring experiences have molded me in a positive direction. Thank you PALS!"
PALS Mentor and former JDI VP of Supply Chain, Jim Jordan stressed the impact of volunteering on the children.
"The JDI PALS initiative has been truly inspirational to have been involved with," he said. "Mentoring students through In School Mentoring (ISM) overseen by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Saint John provides a well guided, structured approach to mentoring, enabling positive interactions with students in need of a little mentorship. One hour a week of a mentor's time can truly make a big difference to a local child. The bottom line is that PALS is all about helping youth to succeed!"
Since 2000, the program has grown in Saint John to include 23 schools, including eight in Priority Neighbourhoods, two high schools and 13 other schools serving K-Grade 8 students. Its reach now spans Moncton, Fredericton, St. Stephen, Hampton, and Saint John. PALS has facilitated relationships between the participant schools and over 150 partners, three quarters of which are from the business community.
Volunteer activities include mentoring, coaching, serving breakfast, offering career guidance, organizing after school clubs, and helping behind the scenes, to name a few. To date, JDI employee volunteers have invested over 90,000 hours helping kids reach their full potential.
The program has been nationally and internationally recognized as an award winning partnership in education.
While PALS programming initially targeted children from K-Grade 8, it now focuses on children from early learning to graduation and beyond. One such program, En Route to Success (St. Malachy's Memorial High School) provides an alternative learning environment for participants from Priority Neighbourhoods, at risk of dropping out; similar to a co-op, they acquire credits while experiencing professional working environment.
Every participant who has stuck with the program has graduated on time and many were offered full time work by one of their placements. Approximately 30 students are involved today.
"If we help one child, that makes a difference. I have seen a lot of positive growth. By the time our students graduate, they have a defined sense of work ethic, accountability, and the ability to communicate with adults," say Susan Tipper, an Education Consultant with the PALS En Route to Success Program. "They have a sense of self-worth and they're accountable. When I reflect on this program and the students we serve, we really are making a difference."
Some particularly successful PALS events at JDI this year have included:
1. Bowl for Kids Sake – $1,000,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
This year’s Bowl for Kids Sake marked the event’s tenth anniversary with J.D. Irving, Limited – and an incredible fundraising milestone. JDI employees have now raised a total of $1,000,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters over ten years.
“The different activities, the different fundraisers, the level of excitement in the office for the months leading up to the event – people were really gung-ho to do a good job this year, and they did not disappoint. It was amazing,” said Deborah Fisher, PALS coordinator. "Between the smiles and laughs that filled the bowling alley over the course of the night, and the funds that the event raised for Saint John youth, this year’s Bowl for Kids Sake proved to be another success. The donations to Big Brothers Big Sisters will help grow and maintain local youth programs."
2. Promoting Literacy at Glen Falls School
Each year, Glen Falls School hosts their Literacy Night event for parents and students. The event gives participants an opportunity to experience reading with their families. This year, students who attended were able to build their home libraries with donated books from the team at Irving Paper.
“We are always thankful for our partnership with Irving Paper and our PALS,” said Jill Nylen, Community Schools Coordinator at Glen Falls, “Their willingness to support our students and our school is overwhelming. It’s nice to have a partnership where our students benefit greatly.”
3. APEGNB’s Soap Box Derby, in support of PALS in the Park
This year’s Soap Box Derby, hosted by the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists New Brunswick, was a great success. The day was filled with fun and high speeds for the children who raced down the hill, helped out as pit crew members, and came to cheer on participants.
JDI PALS partners sponsored 5 cars in the event this year. Many other PALS partners, businesses, and groups sponsored the remaining 30 derby cars.
“Sponsoring schools taking part in the derby is important, because the children get to have a great experience with this event, but then they also get to participate in the PALS in the Park program later on,” said Deborah Fisher, PALS Coordinator. “The activities they get to participate in with that program will supplement and support their school curriculum.”
4. Growing Gardens with Seaside Park Elementary
JDI partnered with Seaside Park Elementary School in June to provide the required materials for their new school garden project. The lumber used to build the garden boxes, along with the soil, were donated by the Sawmills Division and Kent Building Supplies donated the hardware.
"Seaside Park Elementary is our neighbour and we appreciate the talented students at Harbour View High who helped build these garden boxes. It is very rewarding to support the hands-on learning that is happening at both schools. These students are the environmental stewards, professionals and tradespeople of the future," said Brett Anderson, JDI Sawmill Division.
5. PALS Train Rides with NB Southern Railways
NB Southern Railways partnered with PALS over the summer and fall to provide train rides to children attending participant schools. By the time the last ride took place in late October, over 1,000 students and staff had taken part. As in the past, there was a great deal of excitement, laughter and adventure.
"The kids had a blast," wrote Lori Doyle, Principal of Prince Charles School in a note to the PALS team. "They were walking on air when they returned! Thanks so much. I can't remember a group that was so excited to go."
6. No Sole Without Shoes at Irving Paper
Irving Paper has a long history of donating to PALS during the holiday and back-to-school seasons. Recently the company donated 30 pairs of shoes to the group as well.
NB Southern Railway Works with Children's Wish to Bring Polar Express to Life.
NB Southern Railway (NBSR) was humbled to host the Children’s Wish Foundation as they presented Gavin with his wish earlier this month. From the Saint John area, After almost a year of ill health and unexplained symptoms, Gavin was admitted to the IWK, where his family learned that he has dermatomyositis. Gavin, his parents and sister traveled to Florida for a great Disney adventure.
The railway's partnership with Children's Wish has been growing in strength for years, and each December, the organizations partner to create a real-life Polar Express, Believe in Wishes Train Ride event. NBSR employees and volunteers convert a passenger train into a winter wonderland, and dress as "elves" while children are on-board. These children often wear pajamas, just like the classic film! Activities, treats and hot chocolate are provided, and a very special guest is always invited (with his signature red suit).
Train rides are open to the public, with tickets available for purchase via the Children's Wish Foundation.
Sponsoring the Chipman Youth Fishing Tournament
This August, J.D. Irving, Limited (JDI) was proud to host the First Annual JDI Chipman Fishing Tournament in Chipman, NB. The tournament was held over two days during the annual Chipman Summer Festival. Participants were able to fish anywhere between Oromocto and East of Chipman on local rivers and lakes.
“JDI has been an extraordinary kind of support, with this first fishing tournament that we hope will continue, and also in partnership with many other areas with the village,” said Carson Atkinson, Mayor of Chipman.
Sustaining the Children's Forest (Irving Nature Park)
The Forest was completed in 2015 after nearly 20 years in the making. Once a gravel pit for the Department of Transportation, the Forest now features picnic tables with free propane barbecues, a playground, and life-size mazes.
The cedar trees that make up the mazes were planted by local school children, including many from Prince Charles School, the original PALS school.
“The planting program began in 1996. It’s a piece of ground that was developed by J.D. Irving, Limited (JDI) and it’s a testament to the long-term thinking of our owners,” says Kelly Honeyman, Chief Naturalist, J.D. Irving, Limited. “We documented the exact locations in which the groups planted trees so that they could come back and see them in future years."
Just minutes from uptown Saint John, the Children’s Forest is part of Irving Nature Park’s 600 acres of serene and conserved habitat. The Park’s hiking trails, lookouts, and variety of protected ecosystems and wildlife have attracted over 4.5 million visitors since 1992.
“Whether you’re interested in family fun or spotting water fowl, the Forest has something for everyone,” Kelly explains. “The intent was to bring back the forests in this area and create wildlife, while also providing a place for children to enjoy.”
Every year the park serves as nature's classroom, offering numerous hands-on learning programs to young people at no charge.
In Support of P.R.O. Kids
It's not just JDI businesses that strive to give back to communities. Our employees do incredible work, and give their time to charities, boards, teams and other activities that aim to set children up for success. Transportation Division employee, Devin Burnham is one such person, serving on the P.R.O. Kids Advisory Committee: Board, and as Chair, Corporate Development.
P.R.O. Kids is a publicly funded, not-for-profit organization with the mission of providing positive recreational opportunities for youth facing economic barriers. Partnering with community stakeholders within the Greater Saint John Area, we allocate disbursements to children, allowing them to participate in prosocial activities of their choice, whether sports, arts or culture. Knowing our service may provide a child the chance to safely play, socialize, learn and grow is a privilege, in and of itself.