The sports bar at Boston Pizza is packed and the parking lot is chock-a-block. It’s a sunny Tuesday evening in April, and the 100 Airdrie Men Who Give a Damn are gathered for their quarterly meeting of drinking and do-gooding.
The men sit in booths, at cocktail tables or at the bar, munching on pizza and drinking beer and highballs. From painters and plumbers, to politicians and professionals, all are here for one purpose … to make a big impact in our community by handing out a $10,000 cheque to a local charity.
Airdrie’s 100 Men is similar to our 100 Women Who Care – except with some casual swearing in their name, and a penchant for beer. Jokes aside, the idea is that 100 people give $100 four times a year. Members show up, eat and drink with some great folks, watch three presentations from nominated charities, and then vote for one lucky recipient.
The first charity to present at April’s meeting is Airdrie Meals on Wheels, which provides healthy food to 81 clients (versus just six when the group first started 35 years ago).
“Thank you for this opportunity, but thank you especially for giving a damn,” presenter Lois Jones tells the gathering. “At Airdrie Meals on Wheels, we give a damn too.”
A $10,000 donation equals two months’ worth of meals for the charity, which is 100 per cent volunteer “driven,” quite literally.
Next up, after a few door prizes are handed out, is Nose Creek Valley Museum. They’re looking to repaint their outdated display cases – obtained from the Glenbow Museum some 30 years ago! They also have plans for an exciting monthly “Redneck Intellect Lecture Series.”
But the tear-jerker of the evening is Stephen’s Backpacks Society. Nancy McPhee, Stephen’s mother, shares the vision of her then six-year-old son, to make “packpacks” for homeless people and under-privileged kids. From an initial start of 16 backpacks in 2006, the group now distributes 4,000 each year, and the need is growing.
McPhee recently got a call from Rocky View Schools. Kids were coming to school with holes in their shoes, and no backpacks. The group supplied 250 backpacks to Rocky View alone, so every child could walk into school with dignity and on an equal footing with other kids.
It’s no surprise, when the ballots are counted, that Stephen’s Backpacks gets the $10K cheque. McPhee is moved to tears, but so are many of the men – not that they readily admit it.
“It’s pretty dusty in here,” quips co-chair Jack Lumley, rubbing his eye. “Yeah, this Caesar’s really strong,” adds Keith Wilkinson, the other chair. “Who brought onions to the meeting?” adds Tyson Leslie, the group’s ultra-organized treasurer, who tracks member contributions and hands out donations.
Since its inaugural meeting in October 2017, 100 Men Airdrie has raised $31,500, with 100 per cent of proceeds going to charity. (They get free banking from Bow Valley Credit Union.)
The Men got a shout-out in parliament from MP Blake Richards, who’s also a member. He singled out the contribution of Billy Martin at the group’s first meeting. Martin, owner of Martin’s Pest Control, was so touched by the presentations, he donated an extra $1,000 to each of the two charities who weren’t chosen. In April, he was away building wells in Haiti.
As the sun goes down on this quarter’s meeting, the men linger … chatting, and laughing. Then off they go to their busy lives until the next time they come together to hand out a whopping $10K to an Airdrie charity.
The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 17. Details at theairdrie100.com