A Black Diamond gallery got into the festive spirit and gave back over the holidays.
In an effort to show appreciation to health-care workers, Bluerock Gallery used funds from a generous benefactor to shower them in gifts.
“Initially we were offered a generous donation from a local philanthropist, and we suggested to her that we purchase several gifts and donate them to frontline workers,” said Tarek Nemr, co-owner of Bluerock Gallery.
The benefactor, who wanted to remain anonymous, wanted to see her funds go to good use.
“She said she wanted to donate a gift to support the arts and said ‘What can you do with this gift?’, and I said we can donate about 125 gifts and she was thrilled and all for it,” Nemr said.
That number totalled $6,000, and the money went to pay for gifts created by local artisans represented by the gallery, which were then gift wrapped and delivered to the Calgary Health Foundation’s office at the Foothills Medical Centre to be distributed to staff.
“First, showing gratitude to those frontline workers, who as you know have been working very hard for the last couple years and just doing our part, especially in the Christmas season, was a lovely gesture, and also at the same time supporting local art,” Nemr said.
“I think it was very touching for a lot of artists to know their handmade gifts were being given on their behalf to frontline workers.”
For Valerie Ball, director of communications and community engagement for the Calgary Health Foundation, the gifts were a welcome gesture.
“I think health-care workers and their system have been pushed in ways we can’t even imagine for over 24 months,” Ball said.
“They really had to innovate like they've never had to innovate before, they've just been really adaptable to kind of what's been thrown at them.
“So to be able to support health care overall in a time when it’s being stretched and being challenged, and to work with donors that recognize that and are also able to show appreciation for the front lines, I think that’s really important.”
Gestures from the community, Ball added, make an impact with those who are pushing themselves.
“Working with people like Tarek who really embrace that and are gifting such amazing things just to say, ‘We truly appreciate you and everything you’ve done and we hope this lifts your spirit,’” she said. “That’s really special and I think it goes a long way for people that receive those gifts.”
The gifts, which will be distributed to workers over the start of the new year, weren’t the only contributions the gallery made this season.
Nemr, along with co-owner Shelly Faulkner, presented a $4,200 cheque on Dec. 20 to Inclusion Foothills, a non-profit organization providing advocacy and support for individuals with pan disability, as well as their families and guardians.
“It was a big hit, it made a lot of noise, and people loved the idea,” he said.
“The first reason we chose Inclusion Foothills is because they’re local, but second is because they support advocacy and support for individuals with disabilities.”
The funds were raised through a raffle where, for every $100 a customer spent, their name was entered in a draw to win a hand-carved rocking chair worth $4,400.
Created by Dallas Gara of GaraWood in Calgary, this was the second iteration of the draw, with a prior giveaway in 2020 to benefit Deaf and Hear Alberta.
The contest was well-received and Nemr said they had wanted to keep the momentum going.
The motivation to help those around him comes in part from his own story, said Nemr, who arrived in Canada in 2017 as a Syrian refugee and is set to receive his Canadian citizenship next month.
“I’m new to Canada, and I was helped by a local charity to come to Canada as a private sponsorship, and I feel so much gratitude that I would like to give back and serve my community."