Since its inception as an organization over 50 years ago, the Mechanical Contractors Association of Ottawa has prioritized philanthropy – finding ways of giving back to both the community it calls home, and beyond.
Like many throughout the pandemic, however, the local association, which supports and promotes the advancement of the mechanical trades such as plumbing, sheet metal and pipe fitting, saw its charitable fundraising events halted, leaving the team searching for a new way to give back.
Seeing the impact of the pandemic on businesses in the capital and the city’s most vulnerable, it only took one call to The Ottawa Mission for a new decade-long partnership to flourish.
“There’s always been this educational component to our community support, so when we learned about the Stepping Stones Learning Centre at The Ottawa Mission, it really struck a chord with us,” says Mary Gauthier, general manager of MCA Ottawa. “Education isn’t a handout, it’s a hand up, and that really resonated with us.”
To show its support for the program, MCA Ottawa gifted $100,000 to the Learning Centre, becoming its exclusive 10-year sponsor.
Often described as a “small classroom with a big heart”, the Stepping Stones Learning Centre provides attendees with access to educational advancement opportunities and learning goals such as high school completion, literacy and numeracy courses, ESL and FSL training, computer training and post-secondary studies.
Located adjacent to The Ottawa Mission, the centre helps students overcome barriers to education, providing a safe space for them to receive one-on-one educational assistance.
For many in the program, learning new skills or receiving a grade 12 diploma opens the door to a world of new possibilities, says Peter Tilley, CEO at The Ottawa Mission.
“Proof of education is often holding many students back from being able to enter the working world, so this provides a new level of hope for the future,” he says. “We can never underestimate how much restoring someone’s dignity, hope and faith in themselves will help keep them on a positive path.”
Building a brighter future
MCA’s donation will directly benefit those in the program, and will keep the classroom stocked with books, supplies and computers. The funding will also help the program support those in post-secondary education courses, paying a portion of their tuition or book fees.
“This donation will really help us support our students with something as small as a book or a calculator to paying for college programming,” says Kathy Cillis, teacher at the Stepping Stones Learning Centre. “The classroom is small, but it can be far reaching. And, like we see with this donation, community partners also reach into the class to do really amazing things.”
For MCA Ottawa, supporting the Learning Centre also helps develop a growing pool of talent in the city – a major priority for many companies struggling to find workers.
As Gauthier points out, the majority of trades only require a grade 12 education, leaving the door open for Stepping Stone Learning Centre graduates to one day work for an MCA Ottawa member company.
“How many people will we be able to help in the next 10 years? I don’t have the answer to that but, I am so excited to find out,” adds Gauthier. “The Mission does so much great work with every penny they receive, and we are honoured to work with them in giving people the gift of a better future.”