Each November, across the country (and particularly in Calgary during National Philanthropy Week), the enormous difference between “just writing a cheque” and giving back is highlighted. This year’s Generosity of Spirit (GOS) honorees encapsulate these special qualities.
Stikeman Elliott LLP
“Giving back simply makes good business sense,” says Leland Corbett, managing partner at Calgary’s Stikeman Elliott LLP. “However, that’s not to say it’s easy, especially in today’s economic environment. There’s a finite amount of time, energy and resources available, and it’s a constant balancing act.
“But volunteering and getting out in the community is a great way for our people to develop their skills, and to learn more about themselves, their colleagues and their city.”
Stikeman Elliott is one of Canada’s leading business law firms, and for nearly 25 years, the Calgary office has excelled and focused on M&A, securities, banking, joint ventures, project financings, real estate, tax and employment, and a busy commercial litigation practice recognized for its regulatory practice and work on leading oil and gas cases.
Corbett emphasizes the Calgary spirit and uniqueness. “Calgary has an unbelievable sense of ingrained teamwork. People in our city are so ready to roll up their sleeves and help their neighbours. We are genuinely proud to be Calgarian.”
Outstanding Philanthropic Family
The Steele Family
“Giving back has always been a rewarding learning experience for our entire family,” says Barb Steele who, together with husband Bob, is the recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Philanthropic Family GOS Award. “We try to pass along the values of caring and generosity to anyone we contact. Our three grown sons and their families (including six grandchildren) are carrying on the traditions in their lives.
“We love the friends and associations that have developed in our volunteering world and now are enjoying watching our adult children as they participate in the family tradition of ‘volunteeritis.’”
For Calgary’s Steele family, philanthropy has always been a focus and a priority. “Giving back and helping is always important, but in our challenged economic times, it’s more important than ever to find ways to contribute.”
“The GOS recognition is certainly an honour,” Barb Steele adds, “but it is certainly not sought out. We try to stay under the radar but if it can encourage others to get involved, it’s all worthwhile.”
His story is both inspirational and sad. In January 2013, midway through their third year as Haskayne students, Colton Lewis and his close friend, Brett Wiese, were violently attacked at a house party. He was stabbed six times and miraculously survived. His friend died at the scene.
Despite the trauma and the injuries, it turned out to be a life changer. He chose to build a lifelong legacy for his friend and also impact future Haskayne students through the Brett Wiese Memorial Scholarship Endowment at the University of Calgary.
“Having the scholarship has allowed us to steer away from the negativity of the incident and court trials, and has created an environment for positive discussions about Brett and the everlasting impact his legacy will have on our community,” he explains. “There are so many amazing people who have been involved with the process and the impact it is having. We have overwhelming support from different communities across the city and nationwide.”
Lifetime Achievement Philanthropist
Mike and Linda Shaikh
“We have always believed in ‘do good and good will come to you,’” says Mike Shaikh. “And we are truly blessed, very fortunate and thankful for having the opportunity to help others.”
Mike and Linda Shaikh have been married 42 years and have been committed to making life better in the Calgary area.
Long-term financial investments in community health and education, donating $1 million to the Alberta Children’s Hospital to establish the Shaikh Family Resource Centre and funding significant research projects within Alberta Health Services are just three examples of the remarkable couple’s caring and community spirit.
“Calgary has a proud heritage of energetic and entrepreneurial people building a vibrant community,” Shaikh says. “We have people coming from all over the world to build a thriving city. We have created a culture of excellence and an entrepreneurial-friendly society. Calgary encourages and fosters entrepreneurship.”
They are grateful but openly uncomfortable with the GOS honour. “The greatest virtue lies in doing something good without hope of recognition. However, if such recognition can entice others to give, then we love to celebrate the giving.”
Calgary Firefighters Burn Treatment Society
The Calgary Firefighters Burn Treatment Society (CFBTS) – a registered, non-profit organization made up of Calgary firefighters – is into its 29th year of specialized, Calgary medical care and research. The group has generated more than $8 million in donations for the Burn Treatment Centre at the Foothills Medical Centre, and is transforming burn care in Calgary.
“Firefighters get into their profession with a desire to help their community in a variety of ways. Our group is an extension of that. We have found a way to greatly influence the outcomes of people affected by burn injuries and skin disease,” explains Jim Fisher, CFBTS president.
“One of our current motivations is the possible reality that these positive outcomes could become global. We are supporting research to hopefully play a leading role in game-changing rehabilitation for burn injuries and skin disease.”
Doc Seaman Individual Philanthropist
Calgary’s Suzanne West is a champion of giving back. But she also inspires, motivates and mentors other people about Calgary-area philanthropy.
She is the respected Calgary president and CEO of Imaginea Energy Corp., and is dedicated to making Calgary life better. “Giving back is more than just providing funding for community initiatives,” she points out. “It should evoke and heighten a sense of collaboration and unity, which in turn helps affect things. The ability to foster positive change, big or small, is the true essence of ‘giving back.’
“Calgary is a dynamic community, but to get even better, we need to more effectively tap into the city’s intellectual capacity and utilize the brain thrust to foster transition and adapt to the changing world. A dynamic community means we’re more responsive to reinvention, we stay relevant during transition and we continue to develop a deeper sense of community.”
Hazel Gillespie Community Investment Leadership
Lorna Carlson is vice president of the Imperial Oil Foundation and a community investment adviser. In her professional and personal time, she is involved in various ways to make Calgary great.
“Giving back has always been a personal priority,” she says. “I’m a farm kid from way back, so my entire life has been about community. And professionally, philanthropy has been a key part of our corporate focus for more than 130 years. We recognize that, as a major corporation, we are a vital part of the communities where we operate.
“Community is not a physical place. It is people. It is resources. And it is ideas coming together to create something unique and amazing. Of course, the funds are still a component of philanthropy, but the days of just ‘writing a cheque’ are long gone. It’s about involvement and support in many other ways.”