The 11th annual Building for Life Breakfast Fundraiser was held in the Blatchford Hangar at Fort Edmonton Park on May 30th. It was a tremendous event and the most successful Breakfast we’ve had thus far.

With a record-breaking number of attendees, we hit a record breaking amount of donations! After countless hours of tallying up the donations, we raised over $118,000! Because of our guests and sponsors generosity, we are going to be able to house and improve the quality of life of so many seniors!

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The new Minister of Seniors and Housing, Josephine Pon was in attendance and shared some wonderful remarks on the importance of seniors housing! We also heard from GEF Board Chair, Karen Lynch, Diamond Level Sponsors; CBI Home Health, Chandos Construction and Telus, GEF’s Vice Board Chair, Jacquie Eales, as well as GEF’s CEO Raymond Swonek. Shanika Donalds, Community Support Manager, spoke about the Community Support Program GEF has put in place where outreach workers work one-on-one with seniors experiencing difficulties in their day-to-day lives and help them find solutions. In 2018, GEF’s four-person team assisted more than 430 seniors.

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With GEF being in its 60th anniversary year, our sponsors have invested in making the city a better place to live, grow and age with more than $60,000 raised in Breakfast sponsorships alone. Thank you to all our Diamond Level Sponsors; CBI Home Health, Chandos Construction, Historical Painting, and Telus, and our Platinum Level Sponsors; Emcee Construction and Management, HHS Contracting, Kemway Builders, Nakamun Group, O’Canada Contractors, Priority Mechanical, RPK Architects, ServiceMaster Restore and Shearwall Triforce, for all your support!

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Thank you to everyone who attended our Breakfast this year and who helped contribute to make it a huge success! We hope to see you all again next year!

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GEF Seniors Housing holds an annual raffle over the summer months with an early bird prize of $500 and a grand prize of $1,500. The Building for Life Raffle is a staple in GEF Seniors Housing’s fundraising efforts and continues to be one of the most exciting endeavours over the summer for the residents and tenants living in GEF Seniors Housing buildings and for the communities at large who take part.

“There’s nothing better than making that call to tell someone they won a pretty significant prize,” says Chris Schieman, Public Relations Manager with GEF Seniors Housing. Schieman, along with the rest of the Communications team, take charge of GEF Seniors Housing’s fundraising initiatives, including the ever popular Building for Life Breakfast Fundraiser.

Schieman goes on to explain that most people contribute to the raffle, “not even thinking about the prizes. Every call that I’ve made telling someone they won a prize, they always respond saying they weren’t expecting anything. They just wanted to give something back.”

Juvy Santos Early Bird Prize Winner

Last year’s early bird prize winner was Juvy Santos, a friend of the staff working at Cathedral Close. Santos stopped by GEF Seniors Housing’s Central Services to pick up her cheque and posed for a few photos.

The grand prize winner from 2016’s raffle was Joan Ripplinger, a long-time tenant living at the Britannia Gardens apartment building. Schieman and the rest of the Communications team paid a visit to Ripplinger at Britannia Gardens to present the grand prize cheque.

“I remember [Joan] Ripplinger telling me about how she and the other tenants at Britannia Gardens all get together to buy raffle tickets,” recalls Schieman. “It’s something that many people find a lot of fun and they can take part knowing the money raised is going to a good place.”

2016 Raffle Winner (71)

Tickets for the Building for Life Raffle are only two dollars each, which helps make taking part more accessible for everyone. Efforts from 2016’s raffle brought in close to $7,000 for the Sakaw Terrace building project.

With tickets for the raffle going on sale starting June 1, 2017, and available to purchase at any of GEF Seniors Housing’s buildings or at Central Services (14220 109 Ave, Edmonton, AB.), Schieman is excited to see what this year’s raffle will bring in. As he explains, every year the raffle can be a little bit unpredictable.

“We’ve had years where the winners donate back the prizes, we’ve had tickets completely sell out at some of the buildings, and we’ve even seen individuals spend hundreds of dollars on tickets with no expectation for winning,” Schieman says. “You give people an opportunity to contribute to something they believe in, and they will take full advantage to contribute. In the end, everyone who takes part in this raffle believes in our mission and wants to help us push forward so that no senior ever has to worry about where they’re going to call home.”

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For the past nine years, GEF Seniors Housing hosts a breakfast fundraiser to help support new capital building projects in Edmonton. Though the Building for Life Breakfast Fundraiser is held annually and has been hosted by CTV’s Daryl McIntyre, every event has a different flavour that’s kept GEF Seniors Housing’s business partners and community connections returning each year. As GEF Seniors Housing CEO Raymond Swonek explains, you can never predict who will attend any of these events.

“Last year, we saw tremendous support from the Province of Alberta with five MLAs attending the event, including Minister of Seniors and Housing Lori Sigurdson and MLA for Edmonton – Centre David Shepherd who both spoke as part of the event,” says Swonek. “This year, we had the honour of hosting Mayor Don Iveson, who has continued to be a partner in our mission to provide affordable housing options to Edmonton’s senior population.”

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The construction site for Sakaw Terrace, the building project currently being supported by the Building for Life Fund.

Also in attendance at this year’s breakfast was Ward 1 City Councillor Andrew Knack, MP for Edmonton – West Kelly McCauley, MLA for Edmonton – Decore Chris Nielsen, former City Councillor and Chariman of the University of Alberta Board of Governors Michael Phair, and staff members from the Minister of Seniors and Housing Lori Sigurdson’s office. For Swonek, seeing public dignitaries from so many different levels of government attend the breakfast fundraiser shows that the issues of providing affordable housing to seniors is a very important topic.

“We’re seeing more elected officials than ever being engaged with social programs like ours and recognizing that there will be more than one million seniors in Alberta alone in the next fifteen years,” says Swonek. “We’re seeing engagement from all levels of government and a recognition that we need to act now to ensure that no senior ever has to worry about where they’re going to call home.”

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In all, GEF Seniors Housing raised over $80,000 at the event. The funds raised go directly to support Sakaw Terrace, GEF Seniors Housing’s newest capital building project in the Mill Woods area of Edmonton. Swonek points out that the breakfast fundraiser came up a little short of the $100,000 goal to raise the last $450,000 needed for the project, but he remains optimistic for what Sakaw Terrace holds and what the future support for affordable seniors housing will look like.

“Construction for Sakaw Terrace started back in November of 2016, and one way or another that building will be finished,” says Swonek. “We have other fundraising opportunities coming up before the building’s winter 2018 opening date. I know we have partners fully invested in this project, wanting to see it come to life as much as we do, and we’re more determined than ever to see Sakaw Terrace become a vital part of the Mill Woods community.”

Every April, GEF Seniors Housing holds its Building for Life Breakfast Fundraiser, which is the Foundation’s biggest event of the year. In 2016, GEF Seniors Housing raised more than $100,000 in sponsorships and donations from this single fundraising breakfast.

“We work with a lot of different contractors and consultants and other companies to help our Foundation,” says GEF Seniors Housing CEO Raymond Swonek. “The Building for Life Breakfast Fundraiser helps remind our business networks and community connections that we are a registered charity and donations that we receive go towards new seniors housing building projects in Edmonton.”

The Building for Life Breakfast Fundraiser is just one fundraising activity that GEF Seniors Housing holds during the year. In addition, GEF Seniors Housing also participates in larger casino events and holds the Building for Life Raffle held every summer. Charitable fundraising for new building projects is important to GEF Seniors Housing because of the changing seniors demographics Edmonton is currently facing and how the seniors population will only be increasing in the coming years.

“We often talk about the statistics showing that there will be more than one million seniors living in Alberta in less than 15 years and it can be hard to picture what that number really means,” explains Swonek. “The current population of Edmonton is around one million people. So imagine the entire population of Edmonton all being seniors. That’s the population boom we’re looking at. Using our Building for Life Fund, we plan to build more housing options for seniors to meet that need.”

Sakaw Rendering (updated)
Sakaw Terrace is GEF Seniors Housing’s newest affordable seniors housing project supported by the Building for Life Fund.

In addition to the population boom of seniors in Alberta, the proportion of seniors needing affordable housing is increasing at a rapid pace. The cost of living increases faster than pensions, leaving many seniors unable to afford even the most basic of apartments. Swonek points out that the average senior living on a Government pension alone brings home around $1,800 a month and, to remain above the poverty line, that senior should only be putting 30 per cent of their income towards housing.

“That would mean seniors living on Government pension alone would have to pay around $540 a month in rent to stay above the poverty line,” says Swonek. “In Edmonton’s housing market, that’s simply not possible. We want to make sure that low to moderate income seniors can enjoy their golden years without worrying about high housing costs that are only increasing.”

Anyone can donate to GEF Seniors Housing at any time, but the fundraising events become important as bigger opportunities to remind people why GEF Seniors Housing wants to build more housing in Edmonton and why these buildings are essential parts of so many communities. In 2016, fundraising efforts were concentrated on supporting Sakaw Terrace, GEF Seniors Housing’s newest building project in Edmonton’s Mill Woods area. This year sees the same focus for GEF Seniors Housing’s fundraising effort and with Sakaw Terrace’s construction already well underway, Swonek is looking even further into the future.

“We saw so much success in the past with buildings like Rosslyn Terrace and Ottewell Terrace that I’m excited to see what we can achieve with future building projects,” says Swonek. “I’ve always believed that we’re only as strong as those who support us. We’ve been so lucky to see support from so many amazing Edmontonians and I hope that we can keep this level of support because there are a lot of seniors depending on it for an affordable place to call home.”