University District’s Noteworthy in the Northwest series focuses on dynamic, noteworthy individuals and organizations from around Calgary’s Northwest, offering insights across a range of topics and each contributing to describing the spirit, opportunities and legacy of the Northwest.
They sat down with Jason Evanson, CEO for Ronald McDonald House Charities Southern and Central Alberta, to speak about Northwest Calgary’s community spirit and sense of volunteerism, and what it’s like having University District as a neighbour.
Make sure to check out their blog for other great stories!
LET’S EXPLORE YOUR BACKGROUND—HOW DID YOU END UP WHERE YOU ARE, AS THE CEO OF RONALD MCDONALD HOUSE CHARITIES SOUTHERN AND CENTRAL ALBERTA (RMHC)?
Giving back to community – even in small amounts – is a family affair and has been for generations in the Evanson family. It started with my grandfather, who devoted his life to civic service, first working in the military and then as a RCMP officer. He taught me the importance of community and living life with purpose, which led me to a career in the not-for-profit sector.
After dedicating years of service to numerous charities including the Tim Horton Foundation, Heart and Stroke Foundation, and Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, I took the leap in 2016 to join Ronald McDonald House Charities Southern and Central Alberta, as their CEO.
I guess you could say I’m a chip off the old block. I just like to think I’m doing my part to pay it forward.
RMHC IS SITUATED IN THE HEART OF NW CALGARY. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE ATMOSPHERE AND SPIRIT OF THE NORTHWEST? WHY DID RMHC CHOOSE NW CALGARY AS ITS HOME?
Northwest Calgary is a very liveable and diverse community. It’s a part of the city where you always feel welcomed.
When you provide a home away from home for families with children receiving treatment at the nearby Alberta Children’s Hospital, it’s important our families feel comfortable when they move in. Northwest Calgary really captures that warm, homey feel, while still offering access to cosmopolitan amenities, nature and even major roadways for families to easily get around the city. Everything is connected!
Families are with us for a short time, but while they are here, we couldn’t think of a better, more comfortable and easily accessible place for them to be than Northwest Calgary and University District.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE NW CALGARY’S COMMUNITY SPIRIT AND SENSE OF VOLUNTEERISM?
There’s something about the power of community that comes alive in Northwest Calgary. I have seen firsthand the generosity of Northwest Calgarians, and beyond, and it is because of their strong connection to community that RMHC has been able to keep families close.
Year after year, Northwest Calgarians step up to the plate by donating funds that help us support hundreds of families, volunteering their time to support events like Hustle for the House – a walk/run fundraising event held annually in September at Market Mall – and by giving toys for our special Magic Room, a place we bring children to celebrate milestones.
WHAT’S IT LIKE HAVING UNIVERSITY DISTRICT AS A NEIGHBOUR?
Families stay with us because their child is in treatment at Alberta Children’s Hospital. For these families, proximity is everything! It makes life easier when you know you are just 533 steps away from your child. We can’t understate the value of our location – across the street from Alberta Children’s Hospital – and how it’s helping families spend more time together.
Having University District as a neighbour is a natural fit. It’s great being part of a vibrant community – one that’s growing with an eye to the future, and believes in connectivity and keeping people close.
One of the values we have in common is simply being good neighbours. It helps improve quality of life and for the families we serve, which is really important. The addition of a commercial main street, Save-On-Foods, Alt Hotel, north pond park and more, all add value. University District really is a mini city in Northwest Calgary that offers everything RHMC families need.
UNIVERSITY DISTRICT STRIVES TO SET ITSELF APART THROUGH THEIR MINDFUL AND DISTINCT APPROACH TO URBAN DEVELOPMENT. HOW DO YOU SEE THAT IMPACTING THE COMMUNITY AROUND RMHC?
To me, it’s a nod to the evolution of this community and to setting a new standard of livability for all communities within the city. University District is something special. It’s raising the bar when it comes to building a thriving community that welcomes and supports all stages of life. There’s something here for everyone.
GET INVOLVED WITH RMHC
Volunteering opportunities in the NW are celebrated, and for those with a spare evening or weekend, there are many activities happening every day at RMHC that require volunteer support. Whether it’s baking for families, designing programs in the house or volunteering at one of their fundraising events, RMHC thrives from the generosity of community members contributing to activities like these.
Another unique opportunity they offer is a program called Home for Dinner – a program that runs 365 days a year – where friends, families or colleagues looking for a rewarding experience can come and cook a meal for the families staying at the house. In fact, in 2017 RMHC served 504 brunches and dinners thanks to 243 volunteer groups!