Giving back to celebrate 150 years

Community involvement

In honour of a milestone anniversary, $5.5 million has been donated to youth-focused organizations in communities across Canada, the U.S., UK and the Caribbean.


RBC’s story began in 1869 with the incorporation of the Merchants’ Bank in Halifax, Nova Scotia. 

Pictured (top): Halifax Main – Bedford Row, NS, branch exterior circa 1864. Signage on branch exterior reads “Merchants Bank”. Overlaid: As the original founders of the Merchants’ Bank of Halifax were well-established maritime merchants, a modern three-mast sailing ship with an auxiliary engine, allegedly belonging to one of the bank’s original directors William Cunard, was a logical choice for the centerpiece for the bank’s first corporate seal.

It was a century-and-a-half ago in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with the incorporation of the Merchants’ Bank in 1869 that RBC’s story began. Since that time, RBC has been committed to helping clients thrive and communities prosper, and on June 22, 2019, RBC officially celebrated its 150th anniversary.

In honour of this milestone anniversary, RBC donated $5.5 million to youth-focused organizations in communities across Canada, the U.S., UK and the Caribbean. In line with the RBC Future Launch program, these donations were aimed at programs and services for young people, including education, skills development, health, employment and more.

rbc celebrates 150 years archive pictures

Pictured (r): RBC’s Sackville, NB, branch was first opened as an agency of the Merchants’ Bank of Halifax on April 24, 1882, and has the distinction of being the bank’s first New Brunswick branch. This photograph depicts Sackville’s branch exterior, dated 1917, with people standing outside the branch.Pictured (l): Earliest known Merchants’ Bank of Halifax Advertisement, 1873. Shows paid up capital, lists directors, Nova Scotia branches and their agents or managers. 

To further celebrate 150 years, RBC encouraged employees to give back with the Make RBC 150 Count campaign. Through this initiative, hundreds of RBC employees around the world received an RBC 150 kit, which contained $150 to use towards making a positive impact in their communities.

Here are some of the inspiring stories of how employees made a difference across the country.

rbc 150 employee photo linda

Linda, Manitoba

Linda’s story highlights how a single endeavour to give back can grow into so much more. With her RBC 150 kit, Linda partnered with a local child and family agency for Indigenous youth in care. Children were encouraged to enter a contest where they had to write about what they would do if they had $150 to make a difference. 

Of the entries she received, the wish that captured her heart the most was a 14-year-old boy who wanted to buy books for his school library so students could continue to grow with their reading. His wish was granted, and the school principal shared that the students were overjoyed to use the $150 to select new books. 

“Reading the entries, I said to myself ‘Why can’t all of their wishes be granted?’” Linda shares. “In that moment, I was inspired to pursue partnerships throughout the city and have a toonie drive to get all of the children’s wishes granted.” She also organized a party for all of the kids who entered her contest. Reaching out to and partnering with others in her community, she achieved $3,000 in donations, making the party and the day an unforgettable one for the kids.

rbc 150 employee photo lauren

Lauren, British Columbia

When Lauren received her RBC 150 kit, she immediately thought of a student she knew who was working on an initiative called the “Pink Backpack Project” (PBP) at the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO). This program helps marginalized women gain access to feminine hygiene products.

The student had recently been facing challenges with the initiative, and Lauren hoped the $150 would show her that someone believes in her project and her goals for it.  

Soon after Lauren donated to the project, the student shared in a thank you message that she’d been considering throwing in the towel with the PBP but that the $150 had rejuvenated her motivation. “I think this experience really shows that gestures, whether big or small, can have a ripple effect in someone’s life. At UBCO, they say: ‘Change their world so they can change ours.’ This experience taught me that this sentiment is so important,” Lauren shares.

rbc 150 employee photo david

David, Ontario/Quebec

When David received his RBC 150 kit, his goal was to help promote a cause that he’s passionate about and that embraces diversity and inclusion. He donated his $150 to Le Collectif Nous Sommes Ici, an organization that supports groups of local artists who come together to create theatre productions that positively blend diverse opinions, thoughts, backgrounds, religions and genders.

Through this experience, David was impressed by the dedication of the artists who showcased their art, and he believes they’re a very powerful and positive channel for social cohesion within the community.

“I’ve seen firsthand how the contribution of people from diverse backgrounds can accomplish things that wouldn’t otherwise be possible when they’re given the opportunity to unleash their imaginations. These artists demonstrate exactly that,” shares David.

rbc 150 employee photo valerie

Valerie, Alberta

Valerie’s idea for her RBC 150 kit came from an earlier volunteer opportunity she was involved in at a local emergency family shelter. On the heels of that experience, she wanted to use the $150 to help children whose lives were being impacted by poverty.

To bring some magic and excitement to kids and families facing adversity, Valerie put together four packs filled with decorations and supplies to throw a birthday party, as well as a gift for the child. The packs were delivered to the Happy Birthday Project, an organization that distributes birthday packs to kids who’ve been referred by local social agencies, social workers or shelters.

As Valerie explains, the Happy Birthday Project believes every child deserves to feel special on their birthday and celebrations like birthdays bring people together, promote well-being and help us remember things in life that truly matter. “Through this donation, I hope a few children are able to put their circumstances aside just for a moment and make some memories to last a lifetime,” she shares.

rbc 150 employee photo vishan

Vishan, Ontario

Through his role at RBC, Vishan recently travelled to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, where he participated in the Youth Summit held by Ocean Wise, one of RBC Future Launch’s charitable partners. Arctic youth were the focus of the summit, where, using Inuit knowledge and the strengths of science, they proposed solutions for bridging the gap between researchers and local communities to help them work better collectively.  

As part of his involvement there, Vishan decided to use his $150 to facilitate continued conversations between Elders and youth in Cambridge Bay. Through a local coffee shop, the donation supports connections among the generations, where they can share thoughts and ideas, learn from one another, gain career advice and support, and build confidence.

“Programs like the Youth Summit give young people opportunities in the North. The youth were so clear and driven when delivering the presentations, but also listened intently to feedback from the Elders. One Elder began to talk about how he felt purpose in the air—that he felt an energy he hadn’t felt in a long time. He was moved because the youth took everything they’d learned as children and were now teaching others, just as the Elders did for them,” Vishan explains.

rbc 150 employee photo daniel

Daniel, Ontario

Daniel’s Make RBC 150 Count experience was all about putting himself in someone else’s shoes to understand the challenges of homelessness. He chose to collaborate with “Operation Come Home,” a not-for-profit organization that assists youth with finding housing. Twice a year, they run an event where they try to raise awareness about homelessness by encouraging community members to spend a night on the streets and to raise proceeds for the cause.

Daniel participated in the February event, donating the $150 to Welcome Home Ottawa and inspiring some of his colleagues and clients to contribute as well. With a group effort, they were able to raise $500 and provide breakfast for everyone involved in the event.

“Homelessness is a challenge I see in our city and across the country, and being homeless is a pressing challenge for many young people,” Daniel shares. “We witnessed firsthand the impacts of this issue, especially with the cold and often harsh winter climates. I think there’s real power in collaboration, and if we work together to raise awareness and gather resources, it’s a social issue we could collectively diminish and potentially eliminate.”

rbc 150 employee photo nancy

Nancy, Ontario

For her RBC 150 kit, Nancy was inspired by her sister, who’s been an educator in a northern Inuit community for three decades. Wanting to pay it forward within that community, with her sister’s help, Nancy used the $150 for a bicycle draw for the most improved student at the Alookie School in Pangnirtung, Nunavut.

With students making up almost half of the population in the community where her sister lives, and with sometimes limited summer activities there, Nancy felt strongly about doing something motivating that would help to encourage the students.

“Everyone has the ability to make an impact,” shares Nancy. “Beyond brightening the day for one child who received the bike, I think this draw brought inspiration to the entire community.” 

rbc 150 employee photo john

John, Ontario

John’s main focus was helping those in need and having a direct impact. With that in mind, he and his colleague turned to a local community information centre and donated the $150 to the Infant Food Bank program.

The funds were used to buy much-needed necessities like diapers, baby formula and baby food, which the program provides to low-income families, refugees and other struggling parents with very young children.

John recognized the program is relatively small and operates entirely on donations, and felt strongly about helping families provide for their little ones. “Whether it’s through a donation or by volunteering your time, I think every little bit helps in making a difference within our communities,” John shares.

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