General manager with EPCOR and the 2023 United Way Elgin Middlesex Community Campaign chair, Mark Egbedeyi-Emmanuel chats about championing causes, greening natural gas and sources of inspiration
MARK EGBEDEYI-EMMANUEL IS the 2023 United Way Elgin Middlesex Community Campaign chair. He is natural gas general manager with EPCOR, based in Aylmer, and is the organization’s first chair from Elgin County.
His wife Ellen is a lawyer; together they have a son, two daughters and two granddaughters. He emigrated to Canada from Nigeria in 1998, having worked for the Nigerian Gas Company and British Gas in Leeds. He worked for Union Gas for many years before joining EPCOR in 2019.
Besides his granddaughters, one of his passions is cricket — both playing and watching.
The couple travelled to Florida with the extended family last winter and plans to repeat the trip this winter.
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Congratulations on being this year’s Community Campaign chair. This isn’t the first United Way office you’ve volunteered with, is it?
I have volunteered with various United Way offices in Chatham, Windsor-Essex, Hamilton-Halton and now Elgin-Middlesex. I was also on the Campaign cabinet in Hamilton-Halton while I worked for Union Gas-Enbridge.
You’ve spent most of your time since coming to Canada in various parts of Southwestern Ontario. Was that a plan or serendipity?
I just happen to prefer the southwestern region of Ontario, and I have fortunate to have been able to hold my career in the area.
Your career in natural gas has taken you to three continents. How has the industry changed during that time?
Whatever continent I work at, the industry had remained mostly the same; however, in North America there has been an increased messaging from various advocacy groups about natural gas being one of the fossil fuels, which is not how things are positioned in Africa and Nigeria.
What will the industry look like in 25 years?
The natural gas industry is making huge efforts to ensure it is greening natural gas by injecting biogas and blending it with hydrogen to reduce the carbon content of the product to reduce it being tagged as a fossil fuel.
We know United Way is a positive community force, even if we’re short on the details. How do you describe it to people?
Throughout my 20 years of volunteering with United Ways in the region, I’ve seen the good this well-run organization and all its partners do to solve needs within our communities. United Way goes where the needs are and invests strategically in more than 50 programs and services at 40 agencies that provide basic needs, reduce poverty and build housing.
As you travel in the community, you get a better sense of needs — needs such as hunger, homelessness and mental health — and you understand better the services available for us all. When I see the needs within our communities in London, St. Thomas and surrounding area, I realize we should count ourselves blessed.
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My sense is the annual fundraising campaign runs almost independently, as various workplaces and individuals do their thing every year. Am I wrong about that?
We’re grateful for the myriad of workplace campaigns, volunteers and donors who commit their time, money and expertise to improve this community. During the Community Campaign, United Way and the volunteer campaign cabinet offer fundraising support and leadership to a wide range of workplaces, labour groups and individuals — all of them working with energy and creativity to help neighbours in need. Their enthusiasm inspires me!
The campaign is also about community-building. At EPCOR in Aylmer, for example, our staff offered a community barbecue last year to neighbours in our small industrial park. So many people contributed. We got to know each other better, and we got a chance to share how we might address some pressing local needs. It’s a microcosm of events, large and small, that bring all of us together as a united community.
What do you see as your role for this year’s campaign?
My role includes speaking engagements to promote this year’s campaign and to provide support to various members of cabinet regarding their campaigns. I will also be looking at bringing in new donors within the Elgin community, which is going very well. Interview by Christopher Clark