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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.”
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.”