You may have seen a group of people out and about around town for the past couple of weeks, dressed in sky-blue shirts. You may even interacted with them or been personally impacted by them. They are the team of Denham Ford, who from September 18 to 29, celebrated their tenth year in business with “Random Acts of Fordness” — ten acts of kindness and generosity.
The idea started to develop around a year ago, and was the brainchild of Jody Jacob, marketing partner of Denham Ford, who also worked tirelessly as the campaign’s writer, photographer and curator.
“She [Jacob] came to us with the idea and we loved it and we decided we needed to sort out how to make the idea fly and when to make it fly,” said Denham Ford general manager Rene Kowalchuck. “And our tenth anniversary came up this year and we said, ‘hey we’re going to take your idea and we’re going to do it for our ten year anniversary we’re going to give back through ten random acts of kindness in the community’ and just kind of got the ball rolling and went from there.”
Kowalchuck said that of his staff of 33 people, all except one or two — who couldn’t be there due to scheduling issues — were at at least one of the events.
“The really cool thing is that it didn’t take any prodding or prompting, it was more of a matter of what do you need me to do and where do you need me to be,” Kowalchuck said. “I’m immensely proud of our team and they were so happy to give back as much as we were.”
The ten-day campaign began with Albert Johnson, who had been in need for a long time of new dentures, but lacked the financial means. Denham Ford got in contact with The Salvation Army, asking if they knew anyone in need of some support. They shared Albert’s story with them, and Denham Ford set him up with new dentures.
Day two saw the Ford-army prepare dozens of care packages for the Cranbrook Women’s Resource Centre. The following day they went around and surprised random strangers in three different grocery stores with $50 gift cards.
“The cool thing was that while some of this required some planning some of the events ended up with a little randomness,” said Kowalchuck.
Next they went to Operation Street Angel to provide their patrons with a full-blown barbecue, after learning that it had been some time since they were treated with one. The next day they were at Joseph Creek Village to give the senior citizens there a dance party with music from the ‘50s.
Day six they partnered with Resorts of the Canadian Rockies and were at the Youth Impact Centre and gave the delighted staff and guests there 30 passes, with equipment rentals, to Kimberley Alpine Resort.
Isaiah Hemmings, 16, was playing ping pong at the Centre when the Denham team burst in, and when he realized what was happening he was extremely excited.
“It’s really cool, that doesn’t happen at all, just all of it out of the blue, like it’s crazy,” said Hemmings. “I was really excited because now I get to go skiing. We didn’t go out skiing last season, so I’m really hyped for it and I can’t wait. So those passes are going to go to use for sure. I’m pretty happy about it.”
Day seven, the team provided new coffee machines and beans to nursing units at East Kootenay Regional Hospital. Day eight they went to a woman’s house who had, due to familial circumstances, wound up with the responsibility of caring for two grandchildren, both on the autism spectrum, all by herself. They provided her with a care package including new winter coats, food for the fridge, freezer and shelves and passes to Kootenay Ice games and the movies.
The ninth day saw the team working like dogs helping the BC SPCA clearing overgrown weeds and brush from their six canine runs.
Finally, for the tenth Act of Fordness, they went to the Cranbrook Food Bank. Several of their staff stayed there for several hours helping stock shelves and build food orders. They also bought them healthy snacks and drinks for school-aged kids.
To close the entire campaign off, owner Len Denham and his wife Shirley made a personal donation of $5,000 to the Food Bank on behalf of the Denham family.
“I came from a very big family, I came from a family of 16 kids,” explained Denham alongside his son and brother. “Very hard-up family in Northeast Saskatchewan, so I know what it’s like. I’ve been down that road and I know all about it, working your way up and doing things and people have to eat. You have to eat and you have to have shelter.”
The campaign warmed the hearts of countless people throughout Cranbrook and they wrapped up their endeavour and celebrated their anniversary on Saturday, September 30 with a big party.