Living without charitable regrets


Kari and Dave Urquhart acting on their philanthropic goals.

People are inspired to make a difference by many different things; for Kari Urquhart, one of those things was pancakes.

One chilly morning, Kari and her husband Dave Urquhart were walking to the bus stop near their Osborne Village home. Although it was cold, no one was inside the heated bus shelter; a homeless man was sleeping there. Mr. Urquhart went to wake the man up.

“Hey buddy, it’s 7:45 a.m., time to get up. People are on their way to work and want to use the shelter now.”

The man stretched and leisurely sat up. He chatted with Dave and Kari about the weather. Then suddenly, he asked, “What time did you say it was?’

“It’s 7:45 a.m.”

The man jumped up and quickly packed his bag.

“It’s Wednesday! Wednesday is pancake day. I have to go – it’s the only day we get pancakes! Thanks for waking me up!”

This story still resonates with the couple.

“I can’t eat pancakes without thinking about him because I don’t even know where he is now, or what became of him,” Mrs. Urquhart says. “We can eat pancakes now, we can eat pancakes at 3 a.m., we can have pancakes every day. And here was this guy, sleeping in a bus shelter, so excited for pancake day. And that was it for me.”

This was one of the reasons the Urquharts decided to get involved with The Winnipeg Foundation. So far, they’ve established a Donor-Advised Fund and a Scholarship Fund, and they want to do more.

“We’ve got a roof over our head, we eat, and we’ve got a beautiful relationship. We’ve got wonderful family. We have everything we need – we need to start just giving it to people who need help,” Mrs. Urquhart says.

Their work was also inspired by a passing of a dear friend, and by Mrs. Urquhart’s kidney disease. She was diagnosed at age 16 and has had three transplants. In 2015, her transplant failed after 17 years and she is currently on dialysis three times a week.

“I just want to, with my husband, do as much good as we possibly can. I don’t want to be that person having any kind of regrets or trying to change the world when you’ve got hours to live. I can change the world now and everybody [else] should be while they’re alive.”

The couple established their Donor-Advised Fund so they can be involved with their granting – they work with Foundation staff to decide which charitable programs and projects will receive support.

They recently made their first grant to Agape Table. Located at the corner of Broadway and Osborne Street, Agape offers breakfast every weekday to those in need. It’s the place the Urquharts think the man in the bus shelter was headed to for pancake day. And it’s also a charity Mr. Urquhart’s parents volunteered at. Prior to making their grant, Dave and Kari went to volunteer there as well.

The couple expected to serve a meal, but when they arrived Agape Table staff had other plans.

“I can change the world now and everybody [else] should be while they’re alive.”

Kari Urquhart, Fund holder

“[I was told], ‘Go get a cup of coffee and start chatting with people because the most important thing that you can do is have a good conversation,’” Mrs. Urquhart says.

“It’s not the normal social situation that you’d find yourself in,” Mr. Urqhuart says. “It was a little bit unusual, a little out of our comfort zone. But after breaking the ice couple of times it was easier… They’re just like us.”

The couple’s Scholarship Fund supports The Foundation’s You Can Do It (YCDI) Awards, which inspire students at eight inner-city schools to graduate high school by earning $1,000 a year – and up to $8,000 total – to put toward college or university.

The couple is encouraging family and friends to get involved, whether that is by making a gift, coming to present a YCDI Award, or helping decide where to make a grant.

“I think it would be good for them to see what we’re doing, see the impact. And then also for them to understand that at one point in time that door will be open to help make the decisions and to run the family foundation on our behalf. I know how good it feels to give and I want them to feel that as well,” Mrs. Urquhart says.

The couple plans to open more funds, including something in support of animals and a Donor Designated Fund for the Kidney Foundation.

Since becoming involved with The Foundation, the Urquharts tell everyone about their family fund.

“Everybody that I see or talk to – strangers, people I know, family – they hear the story about how The Winnipeg Foundation got started. I have to tell them because I think it’s such a fabulous story, it’s part of our story. And I find that once people start listening… it can become infectious,” Mrs. Urquhart says.

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

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