A Lifetime of Giving

Local law firm is nearing a century of generosity

Since its founding in 1920, Ogilvie LLP has always been more than a law firm. James Ogilvie believed that it wasn’t enough to work in the community; he wanted his office to work for the community. His sense of civic service – including taking part in philanthropy, educational programs, environmental groups, sports and the arts – remains a major part of the firm’s culture.

That rich tradition of giving is especially evident in the Ogilvie Fund, started on the company’s 75th anniversary in 1994 with the help of Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF). An initial gift of $10,000 has grown to more than $550,000, issuing over $200,000 through more than 200 grants to charitable organizations around the city.

Ogilvie’s Chair Ron Odynski has been with the firm since 1975, and was Chair of ECF in ’94. Over the years, he has seen the fund and the staff’s benevolent spirit grow, to the point where both are an important part of daily office life. “We post the numbers in the lunchroom, showing how much is being donated, and where,” Odynski says. “Part of that is for transparency, but part of it is to encourage people to think about what they’d like to support.”

As for new recruits, while they seek the brightest minds, professional work isn’t enough. “All the young lawyers get the message loud and clear: If you’re going to be successful at Ogilvie, you need to be a participant in the community,” Odynski says.

The current endowment generates more than $20,000 per year, divided among organizations based on requests from staff. They tend to prioritize women’s and children’s issues, and poverty in general through organizations like the Bissell Centre, the Edmonton Women’s Shelter and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton. A recent partnership with the YMCA saw $12,000 go toward their Welcome Village, a one of a kind, all-encompassing housing complex in the Boyle street community area for struggling families.

Norma McElhone joined the YMCA of Northern Alberta as Manager, Fund Development, in 2011, supporting the YMCA Welcome Village Capital Campaign. McElhone explains that the Boyle Renaissance Redevelopment project created a community that brought together valuable partners, donors and volunteers. “It’s a community revitalization in the core of downtown Edmonton creating quality affordable housing rentals and service solutions for the Boyle Street Community and area,” she says. “It was an exciting time.” Today the Melcor YMCA Village includes 150 quality affordable apartment units combined with a park, the Boyle Street Community, the YMCA Resource Centre and the Shirley Stollery YMCA Child Care. “It isn’t just housing – it’s a community.”

As a YMCA partner, Ogilvie LLP’s recognition plaque is mounted outside one of the rental units at the Melcor YMCA Village, a literal sign of what McElhone sees as “[Ogilvie’s] continued commitment, trust and confidence in our work in the community.”

It’s a giving culture, one that Odynski knows will last. “We’re only five years away from our 100th anniversary,” he says, “and we’re already talking about what we should do. One thing’s for sure – it’ll be something special.”