What a year it’s been so far!
On Jan. 1, Union Gas kicked off 2011 with the launch of this Centennial website, which documents our 100-year history of delivering safe, affordable and reliable natural gas to more than 400 communities across the province.
A few days later, on Jan. 6, celebrations kicked into high gear with simultaneous employee celebrations at our Chatham head office and many of our seven district offices across the province. President Julie Dill was on hand to enjoy the party in Chatham with employees past and present.
As January turned to February – and much of southwestern Ontario braced for what would turn out to be one of the year’s first major snowstorms – we added the first decade of a historical timeline and a virtual museum to our website, giving visitors the chance to get an inside look at Union Gas through the ages, without having to leave the comfort of home!
We bid farewell to February with an announcement guaranteed to take the chill off the blustery month: As part of our Centennial celebration, we would be giving 100 special grants of $1,000 to non-profit community organizations across the province that focused on the environment, community safety, and education. The applications began rolling in.
Others were celebrating our 100th anniversary too. On the evening of March 24, friends, employees, retirees and dignitaries gathered at the Chatham-Kent Museum to officially open a new exhibit honouring our Centennial. Dill was on hand to give the museum a special thank you for pulling together this retrospective. And our Union Gas librarian and in-house historian Jane Parry made an appearance as well!
Parry has been an instrumental part of our Centennial planning committee, even helping to locate, dust off and display antique gas stoves and other memorabilia in our Chatham headquarters and district offices as a visible reminder of the long history of natural gas in Ontario.
Over the course of our Centennial year, Parry and other employees have given several special tours of the memorabilia at our Chatham head office for our retirees and other members of the public. A group from St. Andrew’s United Church, The Golden Genies retirees and Take Our Kids to Work students were among those shown around the building by employee volunteer "tour guides".
In spring, our thoughts turned in earnest to what special ways we could give back to the communities that have helped us create a century of success.
In April, we held a Centennial Earth Week Challenge across the company, where employees did everything from organizing a clothing and household good donation in our London/Sarnia district, to creating an Earth Day themed mural in our Brantford office.
And on May 1, we kicked off a very special Centennial challenge.
Every year, our employees and retirees roll up their sleeves and donate thousands of hours to complete projects for community organizations across the province through a special employee volunteer program we call Helping Hands in Action.
Volunteers do everything from planting trees, installing safety coat hooks in classrooms, painting and refurbishing office areas and more. And employees can receive project funding through our Community Improvement Grant program.
This May, the goal was special: To complete 100 projects in 100 days. And Union Gas volunteers set to the task with the strong community spirit for which they are justly known.
To cap off a spring of giving, we chose the recipients of our 100 Centennial Community grants, which included community and non-profit groups from Kingston to Thunder Bay to Windsor.
June came like a flash, bringing with it warmer weather and the news – announced at a Centennial celebration at our London district office – that the first of 10 Signature Centennial grants of $10,000 was being awarded to the Trees Ontario Foundation to help plant 3,333 trees in the London and Sarnia areas.
And one day before the first official day of summer – June 20 – we made a major Centennial announcement: A $100,000 Signature Grant to the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority to fund new biodiversity education, conservation and restoration programs and an expanded community trees initiative.
The conservation authority serves 10 member municipalities, including West Elgin, Southwold and Chatham-Kent, which has been home base for Union Gas for almost all of the past century.
Bill Esrey, chairman of our parent company Spectra Energy’s board of directors, presented the grant to conservation authority chair Brian King at a Centennial reception at the Chatham Armoury Banquet Conference Centre.
Other members of the Spectra Energy board and Greg Ebel, Spectra Energy's president and CEO, joined Esrey, Dill, Union Gas employees, retirees, government officials, community leaders and other community partners at the reception as well.
We rounded out June with two more Centennial celebrations at our district offices in Thunder Bay and Waterloo – and two more Signature grants to support a green roof program and an environmental education program.
And just to add a little extra fun to the mix – we marked Blue and White Day in all our offices across the province in June, as well as hosting a special Centennial barbeque for our more than 800 Chatham employees at our head office on Keil Drive.
Summer was in full bloom in late July, when our district office in Burlington held its Centennial celebration. A highlight of that event was the presentation of a Signature grant to Royal Botanical Gardens, recognized as a leader in sustainable gardening, ecological restoration and plant preservation.
In the first week of August, we celebrated the great news that not only had we met the Helping Hands in Action challenge we had set for ourselves, we surpassed it, completing 111 projects in 100 days. Our year-to-date total has since hit 158.
In late August, we marked "back to school" with a Signature grant to the Essex Region Conservation Foundation to support its Nature in Education program, a hands-on study course that helps students learn about habitats, water and wildlife using environmental science-based studies. The announcement was made at the Centennial celebration at our Windsor office, where employees also had some fun dressing up to represent different decades.
And we continued to hit the books in September.
Hot off the presses came our own Union Gas – 100 Years of Energy, a commemorative Centennial book that all employees, retirees and contractors at Union Gas received as a special keepsake.
While our Centennial book looked back into our past, our next Signature grant looked forward to the future.
In late September, we awarded a $10,000 grant to the University of Waterloo's Institute for Sustainable Energy for a research project to expand the concept of a "smart grid" beyond electricity.
We welcomed a number of our Centennial Community grant recipients to the celebration at our district office in North Bay on Sept. 23.
And we rounded out the month as we started it, by celebrating two Signature grants with decidedly educational bents.
At the Walpole Island Fall Fair, Union Gas was recognized for our grant to the Bkejwanong Eco-Keepers (BEK) program, which gives First Nations students the chance to work with environmental researchers in their own community on the island on the north shore of Lake St. Clair.
And under the watchful eyes of a Grade 3/4 class at Dawn-Euphemia School, Dill and Dave Simpson, director of storage and transmission operations for Union Gas, presented a $10,000 grant to the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority for its 2012 Spring Water Awareness Program, which will teach elementary school students about the dangers of the spring thaw.
We began October with the exciting news we had been named to the top of the class, making the list of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for the second year running – the perfect icing on our Centennial cake.
And we turned back to nature once again, with Centennials grants to support a 100,000 Tree Campaign in the Sudbury area, a new forest trail in Timmins and two water conservation programs in eastern Ontario.
On Oct. 29, Union Gas employees and their families brought their garden gloves, shovels and their community spirit to a Centennial tree planting event in partnership with our $100,000 grant recipient, the Lower Thames Conservation Authority.
Under a bright autumn sky, volunteers helped to plant 100 coniferous trees that will form a windbreak for future plantings at the Merlin Conservation Area in Chatham-Kent, once again demonstrating an outstanding commitment to give back to the communities we serve.
As November draws to a close, we’re looking to our official birthdate – Dec. 19 – with bittersweet excitement. It’s been a busy year, full of company and community spirit. Check in again to see just how we celebrated our big day, and what’s in store for our next 100 years!
For a short while, the 21st Century seems much like the 20th Century until a year later when terrorists crash into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre and life, as much of the world knows it, changes forever.
The so-called Arab Spring begins January 14th when the Tunisian government falls after a month of protests and Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali flees to Saudi Arabia. Soon other Arab nations are facing their own protests. In Canada, Hydro Quebec registers record electricity consumption at 7.15 a.m. on January 24th at the height of a cold snap.
Protests force the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as the Arab Spring gains momentum. Crude oil prices jump by 20 per cent in a two-week period that begins February 22 over concerns about the reliability of Libyan oil output. The 2011 Energy Crisis is now underway with a predictable impact of world economies.
Japan is devastated by a 9.1 magnitude earthquake and following tsunami. Fifty countries and territories issue tsunami warnings in the aftermath and emergencies are declared at four nuclear power plants in Japan. World economies take another hit as Japanese manufacturers suspend much of their operations, which has global impact.
A royal wedding gives the world something to cheer about in 2011. An estimated two billion people worldwide watch Prince William wed the Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey on April 29th.
A convert American military operation on a compound in Pakistan kills Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden as the month begins. Stephen Harper wins a majority and re-election as Prime Minister of Canada a day later. By mid month, the European Union agrees to a €78 billion rescue deal for Portugal in what will become a series of necessary interventions to debt-ridden countries verging on economic collapse. In Canada, wild fires force the evacuation of seven thousand people from their homes in Slave Lake Alberta.
Boston Bruins win the Stanley Cup with a game seven win over Vancouver Canucks, setting off the June 15 Stanley Cup Riot in Vancouver. As the month ends, “the newlyweds” come to Canada. Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge attract worldwide attention when they arrive in Ottawa June 30th on their first official royal tour.
An era ends on July 21st when the Space Shuttle Atlantis lands at the Kennedy Space Centre, thus ending NASA’s space shuttle program. On the same day, a heat wave across Eastern Canada reaches its peak with temperatures reaching as high as 37.1 degrees Celsius and a humidex of 51 degrees Celsius in Toronto.
The Arab Spring is still underway and Libya is in civil war. In the Battle of Tripoli at the end of the month, the capital falls to the insurgents and overthrows the government of Muammar Gaddafi. In Canada, Opposition Leader Jack Layton is accorded a state funeral after his death from cancer.
Worldwide memorial ceremonies are held to mark the tenth anniversary of the 911 attacks on the World Trade Centre Twin Towers in New York. In this difficult economic year the president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, makes a sobering announcement on September 14th warning that the world economy has entered the "danger zone", with the United States, European Union and Japan having to make tough decisions about their economic future.
The Libyan civil war comes to an end with the death of Muammar Gaddafi in Sirte and the National Transitional Forces takes control. At an emergency meeting held in Brussels the European Union reaches an agreement to tackle the European debt crisis including a write-down of Greek bonds, recapitalization of European banks and an increase of the bailout fund totaling €1 trillion.
Scandal-prone Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi resigns after more than two decades in power amid growing concern over Italy’s debt problems. The Italian government passes austerity measures in an effort to ease the financial crisis. After ten months recovering from a concussion, Sidney Crosby makes a triumphant return to the NHL. He’s also sporting a mustache like the many fathers, sons, boyfriends, spouses and brothers participating in Movember by growing a mustache to raise money for prostate cancer research.
Retailers have fingers crossed that holiday shoppers will lift struggling world economies, boost employment and bring a happy end to what has been a difficult year in many parts of the world.