When the Cunningham family immigrated to Canada from Ireland in 1968, they arrived with two suitcases and a mere $35 in hand. Having just lost their home to a fire, George, Laura, 8-year-old Beverley, and 5-year-old Georgia arrived in Canada in search of a new beginning. Like many new to the country, they relied heavily on the support of family, friends and the broader community. It was Ball Brothers Construction that offered George his first job, and in effect his young family, a chance at the fresh start they were seeking.
With experience under his belt and an entrepreneurial spirit, George quickly established his own business, and by 1976, Cunningham Home Improvements (now S.G. Cunningham Limited) opened its doors and began building within the community that welcomed them. Over the years, George has never forgotten what it was like to start from absolutely nothing. As a result, he has never been afraid to give back. In fact, George frequently encourages his family to give of their time and effort to support the community that has provided so many opportunities and a wonderful life.
Today his daughters, Beverley and Georgia, continue to follow in their father’s quiet footsteps.
“We are so grateful to our father,” says Georgia, “His heart is massive. If we could give him a title, it would be ‘Big Heart Hero.’ Dad instilled in everyone at S.G. Cunningham that life is best lived with gratitude.”
Now in its 40th year, giving is ingrained in the company culture. Employees and business partners alike are actively encouraged to get involved in whatever way they can. Last year, as part of their anniversary celebration “40 Years of Service with Heart”, Georgia, Beverley and their cousin, John Deans (Sr. Vice-President at the firm), held a golf tournament which raised $40,000 in support of the establishment of a Heart Rhythm Program at St. Mary’s. Their involvement in developing the inaugural St. Mary’s Gala helped raise another $180,000 in support of the same cause. This year, through continued involvement with the Gala, they are well on their way toward a much loftier goal; raising an additional $250,000 in support of local cardiac care.
“When you put your name behind something, you work hard for that organization,” Georgia explains, “S.G. Cunningham is fully focused on helping raise funds in support of the Heart Rhythm Program. The hospital’s dedicated team of staff and physicians provide excellent, quality, patient-centered care. And we want to make sure that care is always available.”
Like their father, Georgia and Beverley graciously suggest that they receive much more than they give. “We all need to do our little bit,” states Beverley. “It’s not the amount you give, it’s the effort you put in. If everyone contributes what they can, the world becomes a much better place.”
“Philanthropy,” Georgia advocates, “is not a choice, it’s a responsibility. A responsibility to the community and to our employees’ well-being. We may all need healthcare offered by St. Mary’s one day. And it wouldn’t be here if not for individuals and organizations willing to help. We want to make sure it is there for us, for our employees, and their families.”