No Holiday on Giving: Local artists, establishments keep charity traditions alive during COVID

One could argue that two necessities for a city worth living in are a population driven by generosity, and a vibrant collective of small businesses that give character to the community.

In the wake of COVID-19, small businesses in Calgary have been disproportionately affected through all manner of restrictions and safety protocols. Some haven’t made it. 

Of those still standing, it’s hard not to be in awe of those whose motivation isn’t singularly devoted to keeping their own doors open — a monumental task as it is — but to also retain their role as a hub for compassion within their community. When, at this point, many of these shops and eateries are deserving of charity themselves, an opportunity arises where Calgarians can give generously while supporting local, too.

At the forefront of these fundraising drives is a 25-year tradition, the infamous Ship Nog.

“I think it’s been a tough year for everyone,” said Nicola Trolez, marketing and promotions manager at perennial 17th Ave. fave Ship and Anchor. “We’re all feeling it; all Albertans, and obviously the charitable organizations very much so. Businesses are struggling and individuals are struggling, and I’m sure they then struggle to be able to give what they once could.”

Last year, Ship Nog sales raised more than $36,000 for local charities. This year, a portion of sales from their “very highly guarded secret recipe” will go towards the Calgary Drop-In Centre, Awo Taan Healing Lodge, and the Centre for Newcomers LGBTQ+ services — all charities chosen by Ship staff. 

Ship Nog will now be available in 750mL bottles, which can be ordered online for $22, with $10 going to charity. Orders will be available for pick-up every Wednesday between now and Christmas. As well, $5 from every $6.95 glass of eggnog purchased in-pub will be donated.

If it’s comfort food you turn to during the chaos of the holidays, just down the block Pin-Bar is offering a special on their December feature, the DOAP pizza. Fully vegetarian, with the option to upgrade for vegans and meat-lovers alike, the 16-inch pizza is just $24, with $3 from each going towards Alpha House’s Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership. 

The DOAP team is dedicated to diverting Calgary’s vulnerable homeless and substance-dependent population towards housing and addictions support. The DOAP pizza will be available at Pin-Bar until Dec. 31 for dine-in, take-away, or delivery. 

If keeping caffeinated is more your speed during this extra-stressful holiday season, both Monogram and Fratello Coffee Roasters are teaming with local charities to add a little perk to the lives of those in need.

Calgary musician Ellen Doty’s Holiday Giveback Campaign, now in its fourth year, is supporting The Mustard Seed this month with some hot and cool treats from Monogram Coffee and Made by Marcus.

Doty collaborated with local musician Wyatt C. Louis on Mittens — a timely holiday tune about being separated from and missing those you love.

On Dec.12, the pair will be performing the song with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra as part of their free virtual holiday concert series.

A digital download of the song will be included with the purchase of the Monogram Mittens coffee roast, as well as with pints of Made by Marcus Monogram Espresso and Speculoos Cookie Butter ice cream. $5 from every bag of coffee sold, and $2 from every pint of ice cream will be donated.

“I really like The Mustard Seed as an organization,” says Doty. “They’ve really shifted their strategy to work on the long-term; not just providing emergency support, but really helping to get people on their feet with housing supports and counselling.”

Fratello Coffee and CBC’s Calgary Eyeopener are bringing back their One Gray Knight coffee roast this year in support of the Calgary Food Bank. $20 will get you a 12oz bag of their signature One Gray Knight coffee blend, as well as a CBC Calgary Eyeopener mug – with 100 per cent of sales going to the Food Bank. 

Orders can be placed online at beginning Dec. 4, with various pick-up times and locations available throughout the month of December.

Morissa Villeneuve, community engagement supervisor with the Food Bank, said they are seeing an uptick in need going into the holiday season.

“In times like these, when so many are facing such difficulties, it’s really incredible to see the power of the community. No matter what we do, if we raise five dollars through the campaign, it’s five more dollars than we had before, and that’s definitely something worth celebrating.”

The Calgary Farmer’s Market has also found a unique way to support not only the Calgary Food Bank, but their own artisans and vendors who were hardest hit by the spring shutdown. 

Taking care of Christmas shopping for you, for $100 each, the Farmer’s Market has created nine custom gift bags for all the folks in your life, from the barbecue and beer lover, to the creative kiddo, and the self-care connoisseur. 

“It’s a way to support local at this time,” said Brittany Fitzgerald, marketing and operations coordinator with the Farmers’ Market. “We’ve crafted each bag so you’re supporting multiple vendors, not just one.”

Gift bags will be available to order online or in-person at the Farmers’ Market until Dec.12, for pick-up before Dec.19, and $5 from each bag will be donated to the Calgary Food Bank.

Speaking of gifts, as we wait for Dolly Parton’s inevitable sainthood to come into effect, the Calgary Public Library Foundation (CPLF) is partnering with Dolly’s Imagination Library in support of the My First Bookshelf program. 

A donation of just $5.50 puts a brand new book in the hands of a child, with the Imagination Library mailing a book each month to participants in the program. That means that in a full five years of participation, a child would receive 60 brand new books, free of charge, to start their very own home library and get a head-start on reading.

“The partnership came at a great time. The pandemic has shed light on the needs of learning in our community,” said Courtney McLaughlin, special projects manager with CPLF.

McLaughlin said research found that having access to just 20 books in the home can help foster a child’s love of reading and learning development.

Calgary families can register their children aged newborn to five years for the free pilot program at the Village Square and Forest Lawn library branches, with book deliveries beginning in January 2021.

Former dive bar doyenne Autumn Fox has spent 2020 discovering that she’s crap at jigsaw puzzles and wondering why she bought a day-timer. Find her on Twitter at @AudieCantFail.