Whitby business owner hailed as ‘emerging leader’ by prime minister
Matt Cardwell’s volunteering efforts with Royal Oak pubs saluted through national award
WHITBY — Matt Cardwell, owner of the Royal Oak in Whitby, recently became one of just two national recipients of a volunteer award from Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Mr. Cardwell was recognized as an “emerging leader” for giving back to the community through various volunteering initiatives. March 30, 2015 – Jason Liebregts / Metroland
WHITBY — A hushed murmur of voices mingles with the sharp clang of pint glasses as a steady stream of patrons shuffle into the Royal Oak in Whitby.
Owner Matt Cardwell is accustomed to hearing the sounds of casual chatter over a couple of cold ones at his local pubs, but sometimes the conversation takes a serious turn. In the three years since opening the second Royal Oak location in town following the success of his first location in 2010, he’s been approached by numerous charities and not-for-profit organizations looking for assistance.
As a proud Whitby resident since 1982, Mr. Cardwell says he strives to work with each and every one of them to find some way to lend a hand.
“It is a little bit more difficult to decide how we’re going to help them. A lot of times we will certainly donate gift certificates or hold fundraisers and raffles but other times, we will create close partnerships.”
He estimates that since 2012, the Royal Oak has contributed $100,000 to about 30 charitable groups across Durham Region, including the Boys and Girls Club of Durham, Salvation Army, Durham Rape Crisis Centre, Lakeridge Health, Whitby Minor Hockey Association, Rotary Club of Whitby Sunrise, and Wounded Warriors.
“It’s very important for me that my businesses and I give back to this great community because, truthfully, without the people that have supported my businesses, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing,” he says.
For his commitment to supporting various organizations in the community and inspiring others to do the same, Mr. Cardwell was recently named an “Emerging Leader” by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He is one of just two recipients of the national level honour, presented at the Prime Minister’s Volunteer Awards in Toronto on March 18.
“I was blown away,” said Mr. Cardwell of the recognition, which praises volunteers who have helped build stronger communities through leadership and made a positive difference in their community in a short period of time. The award is for those who have volunteered for no more than three years.
“I really understood the significance of the award and how special it was but also one thing I quickly realized and understood is that it’s more of a team award if you look at what the Royal Oak is doing in the community for charities and not-for-profits. That’s really what this award is a symbol of and I’m very proud of that.”
“Social challenges are being tackled in new ways across the country,” Mr. Harper said in a statement.
“Local organizations could not achieve the incredible level of success they do, and Canadian communities would not be as vibrant if it weren’t for the talented, capable volunteers and charitable efforts of innovative organizations from coast to coast.”
The Royal Oak currently employs more than 60 people, the majority of whom are young adults. Mr. Cardwell hopes to pass on to them the importance of passion, hard work and giving back.
In 2012, the Whitby Chamber of Commerce presented him with the young entrepreneur award, which recognizes local entrepreneurs under 35 who have shown outstanding improvement in business and involvement in the community. This past fall, Mr. Cardwell ran for Town council in Whitby’s west ward but fell short of victory by about 200 votes. He says he’s open to taking another stab at the seat in the next municipal election in 2018.
“I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded with amazing mentors in my life,” he says.
“It inspires me to be like them and to make sure that people understand how appreciative I am in my businesses to be in the position we are where, after a few years of being open, we’re still here and the reason for that is the support we’ve got in the town from the residents.
“It’s my way of saying thank you by giving back but also showing that there are ugly afflictions out there that need to be defeated and all of us need to work together to find what resources we have available and what we can do to assist.”
Recipients of the volunteer awards were presented with medals, certificates and lapel pins. As part of their recognition package, winners of the national award were given a one-time grant worth $10,000 to be presented to a not-for-profit organization of their choice.
Mr. Cardwell decided to split the total between Epilepsy Durham and Hearts of Durham, which is currently raising funds for ALS Canada as its 2014/2015 charity of choice.
“For me that was the best part — knowing that I was able to help out two amazing local not-for-profits and watch how those two grants can help them in the great work that they do,” he says, adding that he’s looking forward to expanding on his efforts thus far by helping more local groups in need.
“We can’t do everything but if there are organizations out there that are looking for support, then I would love them to come and have a conversation with me.”