Breanne Everett. Illustration: Sam Hester

Breanne Everett: The power of collective action

Calgarians join forces to support front-line workers.

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To close out 2020, we're bringing you 20 stories from an extraordinary year. Doctors. Teachers. Entrepreneurs. Activists. These are the stories of ordinary Albertans who were changed by circumstances beyond their control—and what they did to make their worlds, and ours, a little better.



There is no question that COVID-19 has had a profound impact on Calgarians. We are facing new challenges and old ones have been exacerbated—from job loss and food insecurity to mental health issues and the closure of many beloved small businesses.

On top of it all, in April there was a looming possibility that front-line workers in Alberta would be short on personal protective equipment (PPE) as our province watched cities struggle across the rest of the world.

In response to the immediate need for PPE, Breanne Everett, president and CEO of Calgary-based Orpyx Medical Technologies, and Melissa Lamothe created a non-profit called Helping Alberta last April.

“We were able to raise funds quite quickly, almost $100,000… and then subsequently donate it to health-care facilities,” Everett said.

Along with the cash donations, the group was also raising money through a GoFundMe campaign to purchase PPE and hand sanitizer to donate directly to other charitable organizations in Calgary—like Alpha House Calgary, Kerby Centre and BowWest Community Resource Centre.

Helping Alberta allowed us to feel power in making a positive, local difference in the face of a surging global pandemic.

Breanne Everett

But the good deed did not come without its own challenges.

“There were worldwide shortages of almost all PPE items, and prices and the cost of shipping were skyrocketing,” she said.

With the combined network of generous donors, and about 80 volunteers (many of them medical students), Helping Alberta purchased and dispersed nearly 350,000 items of high-quality PPE—a feat that had an immeasurable impact in a time of crisis.

“I think, for everyone involved, engagement in Helping Alberta allowed us to feel power in making a positive, local difference in the face of a surging global pandemic,” Everett said.

“Channeling anxious energy and feelings of helplessness that the pandemic had generated into an activity that we had power over... led to the protection of our frontline soldiers,” she added.

After working on the ground providing PPE with Helping Alberta, Everett became well aware of the importance of creating a local supply to ensure stability and keep as much cash in Alberta as possible.

So she came up with her next plan.

What if they were to work together to produce PPE, specifically level-one, low-barrier masks?

Everett approached Jeff Litster, the founder and CEO of Fidelity Machine & Mould Solutions, with a proposition: What if they were to work together to produce PPE, specifically level-one, low-barrier masks?

Litster had already shown interest in using his skills and equipment to help during the pandemic, and a partnership was formed.

The duo took their pitch to Alberta Health Services (AHS) with the intention to build a local facility to produce masks. And they succeeded.

The facility was built over the summer and is scaling as they go. It is expected to create up to 100 local jobs, dozens of which have already been filled.

They are now engaged in a two-year agreement with AHS to supply made-in-Calgary masks.

“I think the biggest thing for me is that this, ultimately, was the outcome of a lot of people very rapidly springing into action… to support our community in the midst of a global pandemic,” she said.

Déjà Leonard is a Calgary-based writer who covers business, social issues and the outdoors.

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