Urbandale marks 60th anniversary by quietly donating $600,000 to Ottawa charities

Company consents to public announcement in order to boost awareness, inspire future philanthropy
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It took a little convincing but Urbandale Corporation finally agreed to let itself be publicly recognized for its “transformational” gift of $600,000 to 11 local charities, all of which are devoted to providing food and/or shelter to those in need.

Co-founder and chairman Lyon Sachs and his senior leadership team at the well-established home-building company attended a small gathering organized by and held at The Ottawa Mission on Thursday morning with representatives from the beneficiaries. He was joined by: Urbandale president Terry Nichols, Urbandale Construction president Richard Sachs, Marcel Dénommé, vice president of land development, board of director Lawrence Weinstein and Larry O'Hara, director of commercial real estate.

Urbandale
From left, Larry O'Hara, Lawrence Weinstein, Richard Sachs, Lyon Sachs, Terry Nichols and Marcel Dénommé at the public announcement of their company's donation of $600,000 to 11 local charities, during a special gathering held at The Ottawa Mission on Thursday, June 20, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The Ottawa Mission learned out of the blue last Christmas that $50,000 was coming its way from Urbandale. The local organization eventually found out that it was one of 11 charities receiving a combined $600,000 to mark the company's 60th anniversary.

Urbandale also made significant charitable donations to mark its 50-year milestone and its 40th anniversary.

The real estate development company is far from attention seeking when it comes to its philanthropy. “They were happy to send out the cheques and let the charities go about their work,” said Sean Wong, executive director of The Ottawa Mission Foundation, during his brief remarks at the podium.

What changed the company’s mind, he added, was the suggestion that any publicity could raise greater awareness for the recipient charities, as well as motivate others to join the rising tide of philanthropy.

“Being in non-profit work for over 20 years, we can have all the dreams we want, we can hear all the stories, we can desire to change lives, but fortunately or unfortunately, revenue is a thing that changes the game for many of us,” said Wong.

“Your gift of $600,000 is transformational. It will make an incredible difference in the lives of so many people.”

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Ottawa Mission Foundation executive director Sean Wong at a recognition event held at the downtown homeless shelter to recognize a $600,000 gift given by Urbandale Corporation, in honour of its 60th anniversary, to 11 local charities. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The 11 charities benefitting from the $600,000 donation are: Cornerstone Housing for Women, Gloucester Emergency Food Cupboard, Habitat for Humanity Greater Ottawa, Heron Emergency Food Centre, Kanata Food Cupboard, Orléans-Cumberland Community Resource Centre, The Ottawa Mission, Ottawa Salus, Shepherds of Good Hope, Stittsville Food Bank and the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa.

Urbandale
The senior leadership team at Urbandale pose with some of the representatives from 11 Ottawa charities and a ceremonial cheque for $600,000 that the company donated to the charities in recognition of its 60th anniversary. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Sachs co-founded Urbandale in 1958 with his childhood friend, the late Herb Nadolny, whom he met at York Street Public School in Lowertown. Together, they changed the residential face of Ottawa.

But, Sachs wasn't there to speak about his company. He was there to congratulate the charities on the inspiring and impactful work that they do in Ottawa. "I’m sure all of you could find easier work with less stressful situations,” he said at the podium. “You should be very proud of yourselves. We’re very proud of you.

"We are absolutely delighted to be here to say to you how much we appreciate what you do for the community and how you do it."

Sachs now lives "for a good part of the year" in the United States. The attitudes are very different down there, he said before adding how proud he is to be a Canadian.

“We believe that the strong have to help those who are not quite as strong."

Urbandale
Urbandale Corporation chairman and co-founder Lyon Sachs congratulates a room full of professional fundraisers and volunteers on the work they do in the community during a recognition event held at The Ottawa Mission on Thursday, June 20, 2019, in honour of Urbandale's $600,000 gift to charities, to mark its 60th anniversary. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Urbandale
Urbandale Corporation president Terry Nichols spoke of the company's interest in helping to provide housing and food to people in need during a recognition event held at The Ottawa Mission on Thursday, June 20, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Urbandale's decision to keep a low profile, when it comes to its philanthropy, caught Nichols' attention when he joined the company more than 20 years ago. 

“I think that’s the true meaning of giving,” he added. “I think that’s something that we, as a group, appreciate. It’s not that we don’t want to be in the spotlight but we don’t need to be. It’s more important that you people are.”

Nichols is also general manager of the Kemptville 73's Junior A hockey club.

Following the brief remarks, the Urbandale folks were toured around The Ottawa Mission, located at 35 Waller St. in the downtown core, to learn more about the wide range of programs and services that it offers, including shelter, food and clothing, addiction and trauma support, health services and job training programs.

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Youth Services Bureau Foundation board chair Scott Lawrence with its executive director, Patti Murphy, and Deirdre Freiheit, president and CEO of the Shepherds of Good Hope, with her board chair, Margaret Tansey, at an event held at The Ottawa Mission on Thursday, June 20, 2019, to recognize the $600,000 given out to 11 local charities by Urbandale Corporation, in honour of its 60th anniversary. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Jessie-Lee Wallace, senior resource development manager for Cornerstone Housing for Women, with board member Marilyn Box at an event held at The Ottawa Mission on Thursday, June 20, 2019, to recognize the $600,000 given out to 11 local charities by Urbandale Corporation, in honour of its 60th anniversary. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca