Business leader Janet Riopel has created a fund that builds on a family tradition
As President and CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, Janet Riopel is the face of Edmonton’s business community. But in addition to her many years of corporate leadership, the lifelong Edmontonian has decades of experience supporting charitable causes in the city, both as an avid volunteer and financial backer.
At the moment, Riopel is a member of the Canadian Global Cities Council, a director on the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, serves on Edmonton Community Foundation’s nominations committee (a position she’s held since 2015) and is the Board Chair of the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation. Her past charitable contributions include serving as Board Chair of Compassion House Foundation, Campaign Chair for United Way of the Alberta Capital Region, and Board Chair of both MacEwan University and the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce.
“My time was my biggest contribution when I was young, so I’d give my time and my back, undertaking different projects,” she says. “As my life and career have advanced, I’ve had the good fortune to be able to make bigger financial contributions into my community as well.”
But Riopel won’t be around when she gives her largest gift to the community. Like a growing number of Edmontonians, she has included ECF in her will. “I came to realize that I’d like to be able to make contributions even after I leave this world and move on to other adventures,” she says. Recently she worked with ECF to establish a family trust that will support women and children in the city.
“I feel very strongly that in a province that offers so much benefit and so much value, the only way we can be successful is to make sure our kids grow up healthy, strong, well-educated, and committed to the community,” says Riopel. “I think it’s an absolute crime in this province that we have women and children living in poverty, living on the streets, or living in danger.”
Riopel’s donor-advised fund will be managed by her children — and her children’s children — upon her passing. In addition to choosing the non-profit organizations that will receive money from the fund, her family will have the opportunity to add to her “seed money” and help the fund grow.
While she sees the fund as kind of torch-passing to the next generation, she’s made it a family tradition to encourage her children and grandchildren to give back. “I used to bring my kids out to do things like plant trees or donate their clothing and books to a women’s shelter,” she says. In more recent years, Riopel has given her children and their families financial gifts that they can then decide together where to direct to charities. The fund allows her to “continue to build benevolence” in her family long after she’s gone.
“Really, it’s all about community — building community and strengthening community,” she says. “And that has to be a generational thing.”