Non-profit sector leader Janice Barresi has been lured back from the corporate world to work her fundraising magic on a brand new charitable foundation created by the owners of the Ottawa RedBlacks, Fury and 67’s.
The new charitable arm of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group is so fresh that it has yet to decide on its official name. Yet it has successfully drafted former RedBlacks hero Henry Burris to serve as honorary president and has hired Ms. Barresi as executive director. Its focus is to provide assistance to children and youth involved in amateur sports in Ottawa, with a specific emphasis on hockey, soccer and football.
Ms. Barresi had, in fact, been quite happy with her job as community relations manager for TD Bank when she agreed to meet over lunch with OSEG bosses earlier this year to learn about their plans to launch a charitable organization.
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As founding executive director of the Youth Services Bureau Charitable Foundation and a former ED of Christie Lake Kids, the reputed go-getter had been singled out as the perfect choice for the job by fundraising consultant Wayne Hussey.
“They asked me if this was something I would consider, and I said, ‘Let me think about it.’ I thought about it for two seconds,” Ms. Barresi said with a chuckle. “The corporate world was fantastic and very rewarding, but this got me back to my local roots. It’s a combination of working with our amazing sports teams that give back, and with their ownership, who is tremendously philanthropic.”
The notion of creating a charitable foundation had been on the OSEG owners’ to-do list during the first three years of operation at TD Place Stadium and Lansdowne. They picked a banner year to launch the new non-profit: The Grey Cup championship game is coming to town, the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens are marking NHL history with an outdoor game at TD Place, and the 67’s are celebrating half a century on the ice.
“We’ve always wanted to have a (charitable) foundation as part of our offerings,” Roger Greenberg, executive chairman and managing partner of the sports enterprise, told OBJ. He’s also the executive chairman of Minto Group.
‘Huge charity guys’
In Mr. Greenberg’s view, the new foundation is an example of OSEG’s deep and consistent community commitment. Not only is Greenberg an award-winning philanthropist, but two of his OSEG partners – John Ruddy, executive chairman of Trinity Development, and Bill Shenkman, chairman of the Shenkman Group of Companies – have been generous supporters of everything from sports to the arts to health care in Ottawa.
“We’re huge charity guys,” said Mr. Greenberg. “We always want to tie everything that we do to some kind of charitable component.”
He said he’s always been attracted to the notion of “community investment,” a term he first heard years ago from high-tech entrepreneur John Kelly. It refers to the combination of philanthropy and marketing to help charitable groups while building up the brand of an organization.
OSEG remains proud of the volunteer involvement by its players and coaches with kids and the greater community.
“The corporate world was fantastic and very rewarding, but this got me back to my local roots.”
“That’s what the redevelopment of Lansdowne is about; it’s about serving as role models and getting people to be active,” Mr. Greenberg explained, while also listing such anchor businesses as Sporting Life, GoodLife Fitness and Whole Foods as inspirations for healthy and active living.
OSEG arguably saved Lansdowne from its sad existence as a parking lot wasteland surrounded by crumbling infrastructure in the Glebe. It turned the property into a home for three sports teams, along with a mix of commercial, residential and community recreational space. Just this past week, thousands flocked to its TD Stadium for the Guns N’ Roses concert (Mr. Greenberg – despite being unfamiliar with the hard rock band’s music – was in the audience).
The foundation is creating its own fundraising niche that doesn’t overlap with the Ottawa Senators Foundation’s mandate to promote physical and mental wellness in kids. Some of the ideas being considered include handing out grants to charitable causes and non-profit organizations, and awarding sports scholarships to young athletes.
The board is comprised of Mr. Greenberg and Mr. Ruddy, along with OSEG chief executive Bernie Ashe. It’s also putting together a board of advisers.
“This is not a sprint; it’s a marathon,” said Mr. Greenberg. “We’re not in a hurry. We’re here for a long time, and we’re going to work on this.”