by Julie McGill, Chair, Central City Foundation Board of Directors

You can’t live in this city without noticing that there are people struggling. There’s so much affluence here, and the gap between the rich and poor seems to be widening every day.

I work downtown and live in East Van, which means I drive through the Downtown Eastside regularly, often with my two sons, ages five and eight. When they ask me questions about the people we pass, I’m honest with them. I want them to understand how lucky we are, and how important it is to contribute where we can.

Volunteering for the Central City Foundation is my small way of making a difference. From the moment I got involved four years ago, I knew I’d found an organization dedicated to quietly meeting needs that were otherwise likely to go unmet.

Central City Foundation was a lean and nimble organization filling the gaps in our city. They help with tangible stuff, like providing a grant for a new kitchen stove at a community centre that serves an immigrant community, for example, or through social purpose real estate that provides safe and affordable housing to those in need while earning income to support other projects.

This is essential work that often flies under the radar. Thanks to Central City Foundation, pioneering programs are launched, outdated facilities are updated, and community groups receive the support they need to continue helping those living in hardship. Money is not spent on huge administrative costs or fancy fundraising galas. Central City Foundation is committed to doing good work with as little overhead as possible.

This lack of ego dovetails nicely with the work I do professionally. As a chartered accountant and business valuator, I take care of finance, operations and accounting as my firm invests in and grows private companies. If I’m doing my job well behind the scenes, everything runs smoothly.

Similarly, the Central City Foundation board is motivated, focused and always open to new and better ways of getting things done. This attitude is crucial because it allows us to recognize changes in the not-for-profit sector and the broader social fabric, and adjust how we give accordingly.

We can’t solve all of the problems facing our neighbours. But we can try to make it a little easier for each other. That might mean looking up from our smartphones to make sure the people around us are doing okay, as I try my best to do.

It could also mean doing our part to bring work to the unemployed, housing to the homeless, companionship to seniors who would otherwise be living in isolation, and treatment to those struggling with addiction.

Balance looks a little different for all of us. For me, it means dividing my time and energy into three key areas: work, family, and other. “Other” is for giving whenever possible, and in a variety of ways.