Diversity breeds success.
Born and raised in Kherbetrouha, Lebanon, Abdo (Albert) El Tassi immigrated to Winnipeg in 1969. His first job was loading trucks at Peerless Garments. In 1975, he became a proud Canadian citizen. He continued at Peerless Garments, working his way up until he was appointed General Manager in 1979 and by 2006, he became President and CEO. Along with his wife Samira, El Tassi supports many charitable causes in our community. He joined The Winnipeg Foundation’s Board in 2012, and has served on the following Committees: Finance and Audit, Development, and Strategic Initiatives.
Q: Knowing all the activities and organizations you are involved with in the City, what kinds of changes have you seen?
The change I have found that is very encouraging and hopeful is the increased diversity on Boards and staffing of organizations. The gender diversity is also a welcome and much needed change. While we still have ways to go to be fully representative of today’s diversity, the direction has been set. There is increased awareness that to be successful, organizations must take advantage of the wide variety of talents and perspective diversity brings and how essential it is for growth and relevance of any organization.
Another positive change is that philanthropy is also crossing into supporting community organizations and building cross cultural relationship by encouraging partnerships and resource sharing. Organizations are encouraged to not work in isolation but to reach out to other, likeminded organizations without fear that their collaboration will exclude them or impact their funding.
Q: Has serving on the Board of The Winnipeg Foundation added any new insights to your thinking regarding our community?
I have definitely gained some valuable insights on how to assess needs and what variables to take into account when giving, and to think of both short and long-term benefits. As member of The Winnipeg Foundation Board, I have learned from other members and their experiences, and I have been exposed to the needs of communities which has broadened my appreciation of how to best build viable projects. I have also received valuable insights in developing my own vision for supporting community through giving, with passion tempered with knowledge.
Q: Is there any alignment between Islamic traditions and the work of The Winnipeg Foundation?
Absolutely. Charitable giving is one of the tenants of the Islamic faith. It is mandatory for every Muslim of means to give two and half per cent of their income every year, as an investment towards the needy. All that we give above and beyond this, is highly encouraged and seen as part of our faith practice. Establishing endowments is an Islamic tradition that was established 1500 years ago and is still practised today. Setting up trusts for charitable giving, where money is invested in “Halal” businesses and commodities, is encouraged. Islam allows for profit but not usury, which is the only stipulation when investing. The Foundation has shown interest in learning on how it can make these accommodations when requested, which I am very pleased about.
This story is featured in the Summer 2019 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.