Turkstra Lumber doesn’t simply sell building supplies, they’re actively engaged in building communities across Ontario. The team at Turkstra have adopted the Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) fundraiser as one of their signature employee engagement initiatives. Every year they challenge staff and management in retail locations across the province to raise funds for people experiencing hurt, hunger and homelessness. And boy-oh-boy, do these Turkstra teams rise to the challenge! For the last 5 years, Turkstra Lumber has been a top-two Challenge Partner, raising over $151,000 (and counting!). 

What’s the secret to Turkstra’s fundraising success? How does participating in the CNOY Challenge deliver benefits to their corporate culture and help improve employee satisfaction? You’re about to find out! 

An Invitation to Walk

In 2017, some folks from Turkstra were asked by a customer to walk in a little thing called the Coldest Night of the Year. They were told something along the lines of, “it’s a super fun fundraiser… we walk at night to experience a little taste of what it might be like to live on the streets, then we warm up with homemade chili. Very fun, very easy.” So, they gave it a try. They zipped up their coats, donned their toques, and raised $2,635 as a team. Perhaps more importantly, they heard more about how homelessness was impacting their community.

Little did they know, that February night was going to be the start of something truly amazing! 

Inspired by this cold, snowy CNOY walk, Turkstra leadership issued a challenge to the ENTIRE organization: let’s make our communities a little bit better, a little bit kinder, and a whole lot warmer. The following year, all 11 locations were challenged to form teams with their co-workers and families and raise funds to support local charities. With hundreds of events around Canada, every Turkstra Lumber store was conveniently located in a “CNOY city,” meaning each store team would be fundraising for a truly LOCAL charity. 

Sure, head office could *just* donate the cash, but leadership saw this as more than a simple CSR strategy. They wanted to mobilize the incredible spirit, passion, and dedication they saw in their staff – for a good cause! Turkstra’s leadership predicted that including a fun, charitable activity into the workplace milieu would also improve employee engagement, foster a broader sense of community between staff, customers and vendors, and of course make a real difference in the lives of those around them. 

The result? Eight teams signed up and swiftly surpassed their initial $10,000 goal, fundraising $16,500! The friendly internal competition sparked something in the Turkstra teams – as predicted, these passionate people pushed one another to be even better. 

Leveling Up 

Gearing up for their 2020 fundraising campaign, the leadership team at Turkstra Lumber asked themselves the same question that has made them one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies for the last 5 years: what can we do better? The answer was a wellspring of staff-led, grassroots ideas for building more awareness, getting more people involved, and raising more money. 

  • Committed staff came up with creative ways to fundraise – some were bold “askers”, some made & sold cupcakes, others worked with the marketing team to help organize partnership events. 
  • Did you happen to see the limited-edition Hamilton Tiger-Cats toques and fleece blankets only sold at Turkstra Lumber? If you bought one, then you supported CNOY, as ALL proceeds went directly to those in need.
  • The spirit was infectious. Staff, customers, and vendors were asking how to donate before the fundraising officially began. 
  • Stores rivalled one another in fiery-but-friendly competition (we see you, Waterdown and Dundas locations!) – strategically updating their numbers at the last minute with video messages that always “inspired” the others to get creative.
  • Company-wide emails kept the conversation lively and celebrated top fundraisers, while new branch members were integrated into the spirit of the challenge and the camaraderie of the organization.  

By 2022, Turkstra Lumber had 11 teams registered, 50 walkers braving the cold, and over $50,000 in fundraising on the leaderboard. More than that, they had a province-wide team of employees who’d never felt closer or more engaged. Participating in CNOY created opportunities for employees to talk, connect, and learn more about one another. It enabled them to band together to out-fundraise their now-rival stores, and gave them a chance to work together on fun, new initiatives. It gave them an event to look forward to in bleak-old-blah-blah February, and a chance to celebrate over those now beloved chili bowls with their co-workers and families. Participating in CNOY helped create a sense of community in, and between, Turkstra’s many locations. 


Turkstra Lumber is no ordinary building supply store. They are a group of smart, creative, generous people who want to help their communities thrive. Partnering with the CNOY Challenge has helped them strengthen their corporate culture while creating real change in their various trading areas. It’s a heart-warming (and hand-warming) story that we’re happy to share. 

For more information on Turkstra Lumber, check out their website here. For more information on the CNOY challenge, pop on over to cnoy.com/challenge for all the details!