Honouring a statesman

The Winnipeg Foundation

Left to right, standing: Richard Good, Leo Cholakis and Jim Smith, with Minister Irene Greenwood and Bill Gillis of Crescent Fort Rouge United Church; sitting: Crescent Fort Rouge’s Sandi Howell, Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, Gord Vidal.

Lloyd Axworthy tribute fund celebrates 20 years of community support.

Crescent Fort Rouge United Church
Bill Gillis, Sandi Howell and Minister Irene Greenwood in front of Crescent Fort Rouge United Church.

Today it would be called crowdsourcing; twenty-five years ago, it was simply community building community.

In 1998, when Lloyd Axworthy celebrated his quarter century of service as an elected official, the constituency wanted to show its appreciation.

“When you represent a community for 25, 26, 27 years…you get to know the people,” Dr. Axworthy says. And while they may not always agree with the decisions you make, they trust them, he adds.

Dr. Axworthy served communities in Winnipeg’s South Centre – including Fort Rouge, Fort Garry and River Heights – in both provincial and federal politics for 27 years, retiring in 2000. Amongst his many Cabinet roles, he served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1996 to 2000, during which time he became known internationally for his work banning landmines. He was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

In his time serving Winnipeg South Centre, Dr. Axworthy saw organizations struggle for funding to meet small but essential needs, whether purchasing new kitchen equipment, making small repairs, or supporting a feasibility study. The bureaucratic nature of government funding means it can be difficult to access, and often doesn’t come in smaller denominations.

He also knew communities become empowered when they work together to support each other.

“There are a lot of people who really want to be part of solutions. We get so much bad news – people want to know, ‘What can I do to help?’”

Together with Gord Vidal, Jim Smith, Richard Good, Leo Cholakis and others, the idea of the Lloyd Axworthy Tribute Fund was born. It specifically supports programs and projects in the Winnipeg South Centre constituency.

The group settled on establishing the fund at The Winnipeg Foundation.

“By going with The Winnipeg Foundation, we could still see that funds go to niche areas where we had determined there would be a lasting benefit, but at the same time we’d take advantage of Winnipeg Foundation’s investment and administrative capabilities, and their brand,” says Gord Vidal, who served as Mr. Axworthy’s Chief Assistant at the time. “By doing so we removed the whole process from the partisan/political arena to people throughout the community wanting to support The Winnipeg Foundation and this particular project that Lloyd was coming up with.”

The fund was established in 1998 following a fundraising dinner and gifts from many community members. Today, it has granted more than its original capital, and is worth approximately one third more than its original value. See sidebar for details.

The fund has supported many charities including Cresent Fort Rouge United Church, Broadway Neighbourhood Centre, Gas Station Arts Centre, Augustine United Church, River Avenue Cooperative Day Nursery and many more.

When Dr. Axworthy became President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Winnipeg in 2004, he worked to expand university access for inner-city, Indigenous, newcomer and refugee students. One way this was accomplished was through the Opportunity Fund, which was inspired by the success of the Lloyd Axworthy Tribute Fund.

Experience with the Lloyd Axworthy Tribute Fund at The Winnipeg Foundation demonstrated “goodwill, and that for a lot of people, if they saw specific local need, they would respond to it.”

Similar to the Lloyd Axworthy Tribute Fund, the Opportunity Fund avoids bureaucracy by fast tracking bursaries and tuition credits. The Opportunity Fund’s target populations are often ineligible for traditional student loans. They may be hesitant to apply for them because they worry about repaying. Developing the Opportunity Fund avoided these concerns.

It also allowed people to come together to support each other – engaging in the kind of grassroots philanthropy that builds capacity and capability.

Between 2007 and 2017, more than 2,600 University of Winnipeg students have been supported through the Opportunity Fund which, like the Lloyd Axworthy Tribute Fund, is an important legacy for our community.


The power of endowment – in just 20 years!

The Lloyd Axworthy Tribute Fund is worth one third more than its contributed capital. It has granted more than its original capital!

Contributed capital: $267,453.65
Market value (as of Aug. 31, 2018): $357,210.59
Total grants since establishment: 31 totaling $275,052.00

For Good. Forever.


This story is featured in the Fall 2018 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.

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