Giving back: 8 groups using construction for good

Charities, non-profits, social enterprises—this is the industry at its finest.

Construction has the potential to be a force for good and these non-profits, social enterprises and charities are seizing that potential. They are tackling homelessness, cancer, housing, employment and much more. Check out our list below and let us know if there is a group that you think should be on our next list.

The Cypress Challenge (Glotman Simpson)

After his mother-in-law passed away from pancreatic cancer, Geoffrey Glotman, managing principal of engineering firm Glotman Simpson, decided to use his love of cycling to help others. the Cypress Challenge, a gruelling 12-km hill climb up Cypress Mountain in Metro Vancouver, was established to raise awareness and support with the hope that more funds for research will lead to improved outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients. To date it has raised nearly $4.5 million and become the largest privately funded fundraising event for pancreatic cancer in Canada and the largest community-based event for BC Cancer Foundation.

Building Up

Building Up is using construction to tackle multiple community issues at the same time. The social enterprise traces its roots back to BUILD Inc in Winnipeg, where a group of individuals recognized the impending surge in energy upgrading for Manitoba housing. Driven by a desire to bridge this work with communities striving to break the cycle of poverty, they established a non-profit business model. This approach not only addressed housing upgrades but also served as a platform for training and employing residents. Initially focusing on toilet retrofits for water conservation and plumbing training, Building Up gradually expanded its services and participant support. Today, Building Up boasts multiple businesses, a comprehensive program and training center, and a dedicated team of case managers, trades people and counsellors.

Play Forever

When Mohammed Al-Salem isn’t doing community benefits and relations work for EllisDon, he’s using those same skills to help oversee his own charity Play Forever. The organization is a non-profit providing structured and accessible recreation, education and mental health services to the youth of Toronto. Play Forever currently serves youth ages 8-29 with weekly programs, primarily focused on helping youth from marginalized communities and low-income families.


EMBERS is igniting hope for those looking to improve their lives by entering the workforce. The registered charity says its mission is to create economic and employment opportunities for people by providing them jobs, training, and support. Part of their work in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is providing construction training and connecting clients with jobs. Every year, EMBERS Staffing employs thousands of individuals from diverse backgrounds, placing them in short and long-term jobs. As a social enterprise, they invest 100% of profits back into the community in the form of worker support programs, higher hourly wages, free tool and equipment rentals and access to certified skills training opportunities. They are supported by someone Canada’s biggest contractors, including PCL, EllisDon, ITC Construction Group, Chandos and more.

Helmets to Hardhats

Transitioning from military life to civilian life can be hard. Helmets to Hardhats (H2H) Canada is making this transition easier. The registered non-profit organization has been providing second career opportunities within Canada’s Building Trade Unions to the military-affiliated community for over a decade. We ensure the military community is connected to careers with the best industry wages, benefits and pension plans. At the same time, Canada’s Unions and employers receive highly motivated, trained and dedicated employees to add to their workforce. H2H is recognized as a leading service provider by the Government of Ontario, the Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada.

Working Gear

Why Working Gear Matters from Smart City Media on Vimeo.

Simply not having the right gear to step onto a construction site can be a massive barrier to someone looking to enter the workforce. Working Gear wants to change that. Working Gear is a volunteer-run charity located in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. They provide industry-appropriate clothing and haircutting services to individuals experiencing unemployment or underemployment. This includes formal wear for an interview and construction gear for the job site.


BUILD – an acronym for Building Urban Industries for Local Development – is an Indigenous social enterprise non-profit contractor and a training program for people who face barriers to employment. The Winnipeg-based group provides apartment turnover maintenance and renovations for landlords. Our work employs neighbourhood people, cuts crime, decreases EIA rates, and builds the next generation of the much-needed workforce.

New Commons Development

New Commons Development is a non-profit real estate development company that is taking a different approach to address Canada’s housing crisis. By partnering with non-profits, co-operatives, faith-based groups and the public sector, their goal is to develop affordable housing and social purpose real estate. New Commons Development earns a development fee through each project but they typically share this fee with its partners. This development fee is funded through the project so that their partners do not incur this cost as a direct expense. They have offices in Toronto and Vancouver.


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