Gay Lea Foods fundraises to leverage $2.4 million for co-operatives in Rwanda

Nov 15, 2012, 09:00 ET from Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Limited

TORONTO, Nov. 15, 2012 /CNW/ - It's called Co-op Week at Gay Lea Foods and it carries a 12-year tradition. And by the time this year's event ended, the co-operative's 650 employees had raised over $78,000 for a group of small co-operatives in Rwanda.

For seven days at all Gay Lea locations, employees pay to participate and compete in a range of activities, from nail driving to pie tossing, waffle breakfasts to a silent auction, potlucks to Family Feud. They also earned BINGO cards when signing up for bi-weekly payroll deductions for the upcoming calendar year.

By the end of the week, they had raised over $78,000 towards their four-year, $200,000 commitment to the Co-operative Development Foundation to support agricultural co-operatives in Rwanda.

Matched 3:1 through CIDA, over the life of the project, funds raised will leverage $800,000 for UGAMA, the local Rwandan partner who will oversee the project.

But it doesn't stop there. The board of directors has added $400,000 over four years from the co-operative itself, which when matched by CIDA, will send an additional $1.6 million to the Rwandan project; some 22,000 families in rural areas will directly benefit from increased food security and crop production.

"Gay Lea is proud of its 12-year history working through CDF and the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) to support co-operatives in the international arena and at home in the Canadian Arctic," says Chair Mark Hamel.

Michael Barrett, COO of Gay Lea Foods and president of CDF adds, "We believe in the co-operative model; and, we are confident this model is key to strengthening communities in need and paving the way for a better future."

Rwanda, one of the world's poorest countries, continues to re-build after the political instability of the 1990s. Co-operatives, a government-supported model for socio - economic development in Rwanda, are working together to increase crop yields, and improve infrastructure and access to larger markets.

About Gay Lea Foods

Gay Lea Foods is an Ontario co-operative with 1,200 members and 650 employees. It is a leader in the dairy industry, with its head office in Mississauga and six production facilities across Ontario. Its brands, Gay Lea, Nordica and Ivanhoe, have a strong presence in the retail, foodservice and industrial ingredients sectors.

About CDF

Since 1947, the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF) has raised funds in support of co-operative and credit union development programming to reduce global poverty, delivered in partnership with the CCA. They also rally volunteers to bring time-tested co-operative principles to developing countries.

About CCA

CCA is a national association for co-operatives in Canada, representing more than nine million co-operative and credit union members from over 2,000 organizations. Individual co-op members are represented by CCA either directly through their co-operative, through their provincial co-op association or credit union central, or through sector organizations. CCA is itself a federally-incorporated co-operative, owned by its member organizations.

SOURCE Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Limited

Video with caption: "Employees at Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Limited kicked off Co-op Week to raise funds for co-operatives in Rwanda. Over its 12-year history, this week-long event has raised over $440,000 which when matched 3:1 by the Canadian International Development Agency, has sent close to $1.8 million to co-operatives on three continents.". Video available at:

Image with caption: "Andrea Boileau and Zbigniew Ewertowski enjoy a waffle breakfast, a fundraising staple across all Gay Lea sites. The waffle mix and toppings are donated for the event by a proud supporter. (CNW Group/Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Limited)". Image available at:

Image with caption: "COO Mike Barrett adds spirit and laughter at a live auction inside the Ivanhoe Cheese store in Madoc, Ontario. Customers who happen to pop in often join in the bidding and the fun while they shop. (CNW Group/Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Limited)". Image available at: