NICOLA WEALTH HAS ALWAYS STRIVED to be an active member of our communities, both locally and internationally — not only as a company but also in how we facilitate our staff and clients’ philanthropic goals. This newsletter is intended to inspire the culture of giving through sharing client stories and highlighting charities and causes. Collectively, we maximize the impact of our individual efforts and initiate change.
Dr. Stephen Drance
Our clients are as PASSIONATE about MAKING CHANGE as we are. Meet one of our clients and hear their story.
Dr. Stephen Drance was born in Poland in 1925. One of only a small number from his high school class to have survived World War II, Stephen was able to escape to England during the war and later immigrate to Canada. It is his gratitude for these two countries, and the many people he met along the way, that has inspired him to lead a life of service. Since then he has been appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada for his work in healthcare and medical research and awarded the Queen Elizabeth II, Diamond Jubilee Medal, for his work in the arts.
In this client feature, we honour the late Stephen Drance and the work he has done to give back to his community and the generations to come. Through this interview with Stephen’s son Jonathan Drance, we learn about his father’s remarkable life story, his motivations for giving back and the legacy he has left behind.
Jonathan, can you tell us a little about your father? What motivated him to be so philanthropic?
My father grew up facing a massive amount of turmoil that many people have never seen. Growing up in Poland in the 1920’s he witnessed the Great Depression and The Holocaust firsthand; he was one of a very limited number of people in his circle to have survived the war. When you add it all up, from hyperinflation before the war, to instability in the Great Depression, and then to World War II he had witnessed some of the most cataclysmic events of the 20th century; not only from a distance but right in the middle of where the worst activities and actions took place.
In September of 1939, his mother had the foresight to make the family get on a train in the last week before hostilities broke out for World War II and go to England where my father had been attending school.
The fact that England would take in a family of Jewish refugees, some of whom didn’t even speak English, and that he could emigrate to Canada and work freely and enjoy great success and safety really motivated him to give back to society. It was that level of gratitude to English and Canadian society that made him highly disposed to do things of both community and public value; both in terms of time and money.
Regarding his career as an ophthalmologist, and in healthcare, he never worked purely in private practice for money. He always did a great deal of research and training, he raised money for the construction of the Eyecare Centre at Vancouver General Hospital and played a role in developing the UBC Hospital and helping to staff it and organize it in its early years.
I know the arts were very important to him, can you tell me what he did for the arts?
Because of his background, he always wanted to promote community values and continuity of tradition. This can especially be seen in how he put together Festival Vancouver which ran for almost a decade starting in 2000. He then transitioned to Early Music Vancouver because that was all about art, respect for tradition, and the continuity of culture. All of that stemmed from his firsthand witness of the consequences of losing a society and its culture.
For Festival Vancouver he was the founder, producer, and person who imagined it. He was the impresario of the festival. With Early Music Vancouver, he raised money ceaselessly, contributed ideas and helped recruit people to perform. He also donated a significant amount of his money to putting Early Music Vancouver on a solid financial footing.
What about his medical career?
My father was a professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC), and an ophthalmologist. Over his career, he did a great deal of research on the disease of Glaucoma where he was internationally recognized for his work. He received multiple awards, multiple honorary degrees and also received the Order of Canada for both his research and for his more public involvement in terms of promoting health facilities like the Eyecare Centre at Vancouver General Hospital and the founding of UBC hospital.
How has watching your father’s involvement in philanthropy impacted your own life?
The importance of everybody taking an interest in the common good and in contributing back to society was a lesson we learned at an early age. We learned it in multiple forms around the kitchen table, in visits to museums, churches and universities. Moreover, we were introduced to his interest in politics and the importance of free, broad and democratic access to everything that society offered. I think those were the key values for him and all three of his children directly absorbed those attitudes and that has been reflected in the kinds of activities that we’ve done.
What is the legacy your father has left behind?
His legacy was in helping create strong institutions that served the common good and that are stronger now than when he founded them or first participated in them. He contributed a great deal to building them up and leaving them in a sustainable position so they could carry on his mission. Looking back on what he’s left behind, I can think of three tangible things that stand out:
- The Eyecare Centre which is a recognized centre of excellence. It would not have existed without his fundraising and his vision.
- The UBC Hospital and his work encouraging the government to support it and the university to get behind it. Helping to initially staff it and really helping it grow and become the institution that it is today.
- Early Music Vancouver. He helped put it on a firm financial footing and he helped people understand that this is not just about music, that this had a far deeper social and cultural impact. He borrowed from his experiences to show how private money could then be leveraged with matching contributions from the province and from the federal government.
Nicola Wealth recognizes the incredible work of Dr. Stephen Drance and we want to thank Jonathan Drance for his efforts to help his father’s mission endure. Whether it was through time, vision, money or effort, Dr. Stephen Drance has helped create a more secure, safe and cultural society not just for his generation, but for generations to come.
Union Gospel Mission
It’s no secret that Vancouver has one of the largest populations of individuals facing homelessness in North America. Union Gospel Mission (UGM) is an organization on the ground working to ease the burden of the most vulnerable, rebuild the lives of the broken and offer dignity to those who feel cast aside.
UGM has been feeding hope and changing the lives of men, women, youth, and children since 1940. Through its seven locations in Metro Vancouver and the city of Mission, UGM extends a faith-based continuum of care to people who struggle with poverty, homelessness, and addiction. Their comprehensive range of life-changing programs and services includes outreach, meals, chaplaincy, drop-ins, emergency shelter, family services, alcohol and drug recovery, second-stage recovery, employment services, and housing.
In 2021 they are working to complete their Women and Families Centre, which will help them to provide services to women, single mothers, and families and allow them to work towards preventing cycles of trauma in families—and therefore in communities—from continuing. Below is the story of Steve, who watched his life transform at UGM.
Just before Steve arrived at UGM, he was clouded by shame. “I felt horrible. I wouldn’t have shaken my own hand,” he remembers. Steve had spent the past two years isolated, living in a makeshift camp under the Pattullo Bridge—led on by a lifetime of numbness.
Steve grew up in an imperfect home, and always longed for ‘normalcy’. After discovering that a wife and two sons couldn’t heal his deep heartache, Steve secretly turned to crystal meth to cope with the pain. When his marriage unravelled 22 years later, Steve fell deeper into addiction, leading him to live under the bridge.
Thankfully, when Steve sought recovery, UGM’s purpose-built facility had newly opened at 601 E Hastings. When he walked in, Jack, an Addictions Counselor, met Steve with a dignifying handshake. “It felt like someone cared,” he remembers.
While love, trust, and community are sentiments Steve’s life had always lacked, they became familiarities in recovery. With a dependable support system in place, Steve unearthed his addiction’s roots, trusted peers who would become his best friends, and—felt his heart softening.
After completing the program, Steve continued his journey by staying in Aftercare, UGM’s Second-Stage Recovery program. Soon after, he found himself a job on UGM’s Maintenance team. “There was a little painting job that needed to be done in Women & Families at 616 E Cordova,” he remembers.
That little painting job grew into a full-time job, and eventually, Steve became trusted with overseeing maintenance at The Orchard in Surrey, Lydia Home in Mission, and UGM’s New Westminster Resource Centre. Since then, he has become Assistant Manager of Maintenance & Custodial Services.
Steve has remained sober since shaking Jack’s hand that first day, but the recovery journey hasn’t been easy. The road was particularly rocky a few years ago, after hitting his head badly and ending up in the hospital with a severe concussion, and cerebral sensitivity syndrome.
Uncertain if he would walk again and what that would mean for his life-giving job, Steve began battling suicidal thoughts. “I didn’t know where it was all going to go,” he says, quietly. Yet, with the help of UGM and his friends, Steve was able to fiercely overcome the darkness. Today, Steve is on his feet, back to work, and has renewed purpose.
Through it all, Steve explains that recovery continuously takes place through daily decisions: maintaining balance, having fellowship, and most importantly, equipping himself with love. “As soon as you can love yourself, then you can pass that love on,” he shares, wisely.
This sentiment informs everything Steve does at UGM. From greeting new guests with a handshake to mentoring other Alcohol & Drug Recovery alumni on the Maintenance team, Steve yearns to love. “This is my calling,” he beams. “I want that next person to have what I have in my life today.”
When reflecting upon his journey, Steve is filled with gratitude for generous donors, who has paved his way for the past few years—and are paving the way for countless people, tomorrow.
“I was referred to UGM because the facility had just opened, and they thought it’d be a perfect fit,” Steve says, grinning. Between finding purpose and a newfound family, he can only humbly admit, “I guess they were right.”
If you would like to learn more about UGM please visit their website at https://www.ugm.ca/
Nicola Wealth Gives Back Update
Nicola Wealth values the role companies play in making the world a better place. The Nicola Wealth Gives Back Charitable Committee is a board of Nicola Wealth staff, management, and spouses committed to developing and fostering a culture of giving. The Committee acts as facilitators for employees and partners to succeed with their charitable goals thereby giving back to the world in meaningful ways.
Below is an update on what the Nicola Wealth Gives Back Charitable Committee (NGB) has been up to the past few months.
- The Nicola Gives Back Charity Committee (NGB) hosted a “Giving Tuesday” Fundraiser at the end of 2020 where all staff donations up to $500 per employee were matched by the committee. This resulted in over $53,000 in donations into the community in December 2020 alone.
- In 2021 so far, the committee has been able to support two shipments of much-needed medical supplies to West Africa through the Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation.
- In addition to their ongoing partnerships, NGB has begun supporting the Looking Glass Foundation, an organization that supports individuals struggling with eating disorders and disordered eating.
- They have also formed a new charitable partnership with the Urban Native Youth Association, an organization that supports indigenous youth in achieving their full potential.