B.C. company builds on familial culture through matching donations to compassion fund

When Richard Cayer’s car was stolen in April, he didn’t expect his employer to get involved, much less help him cope with the situation financially.

But that’s exactly what B.C. moving company BigSteelBox Corp. did when it granted Cayer $1,500 through an employee-led compassion fund that helps staff members cope with emergencies and unexpected financial challenges.

Cayer’s manager learned about his predicament when he came in late for work the day after the theft. After other employees became aware of what had happened, they brought the case forward to the compassion fund’s committee members, who agreed to help Cayer immediately.

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By the end of the day, Cayer’s manager informed him his colleagues wanted to give him some money to recover from his loss. “My jaw hit the floor when he told me [the news],” he says. “I was shocked and amazed and just deeply touched they’d do that for me.”

Cayer, who had worked for the company for about a year, used the $1,500 to get another car.

The company implemented the fund in 2015 after employees proposed the idea to management, says Jason Siebenga, president of BigSteelBox. He notes that while employees would often help each other during hard times in the past, there was no formal program until more recently.

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The company matches employee donations to the fund. To date, it has granted about $16,500 to employees who have experienced temporary or critical financial needs.

The money has helped workers who needed temporary help paying rent or utilities as well as sudden situations like the death of a family member, says Siebenga.

Siebenga doesn’t see the fund as an employee benefit but rather a tool that reflects the company’s familial culture. In fact, many employees receive help only after their colleagues have shared their stories, he says.

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The program builds relationships among staff and empowers them to help one another, says Siebenga. “For it to work, people actually have to care about each other . . .. The company just facilitates it,” he says.

As for Cayer, his colleagues’ gesture made an impact. “The fund is a godsend, really . . .. Having people with such big hearts, empathy and compassion for their employees really gives you a sense of ‘Yeah, I’m gonna go the extra mile and do whatever I can for this company because I’m darn proud of them and darn proud of how they treat their people . . .. If anything, it’s a major uplifter. It gives you that drive. You know you’re working for a great company and you go the extra mile.”

Since his experience, Cayer says he has made regular contributions to the fund. “It’s a wonderful thing. Every company should have such a thing.”