An enduring legacy

The Stollery Charitable Foundation celebrates 25 years

Jeff Bryson is proud of the impact his grandparents, Bob and Shirley Stollery, have had on thousands of lives through their legacy, the Stollery Charitable Foundation (SCF).

“They never expected recognition. There’s a million ways to spend your money and they chose such a selfless way to do it,” says Bryson, executive director of the Foundation.

SCF is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Since the Stollerys created the Foundation in 1994, it has awarded more than $37.5 million in grant funds to charities and organizations in Kamloops and Edmonton.

“They wanted to establish a family foundation to engage their family members in volunteerism and philanthropy … and keep them connected to the community,” Bryson says.

L to R: Shirley, Carol, Doug and Janet Stollery.

The private family foundation was an ideal way to do that, by ensuring a perpetual contribution to the charitable sector.

One way that’s done is through a partnership with Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF).

The Stollery Charitable Foundation has committed more than $880,000 to ECF’s Stollery Small Grants Fund since 2005. Those funds allow for a quicker response to smaller and more urgent needs that can’t wait for the Foundation’s semi-annual granting meetings. The relationship between ECF and SCF is mutually beneficial, Bryson says, and is helpful for the respective charities with which they work.

“Sometimes we can encourage [charities] to leverage support from both foundations,” says Bryson, who shares office space with ECF in downtown Edmonton. “We collaborate closely, share information freely and support each other when we need.”

In addition to wanting to give back in Edmonton, the Stollerys knew that to engage their extended family in philanthropy, it was important to also support their communities.

That’s why the late Bob and Shirley focused the Foundation’s efforts on both Edmonton and Kamloops — where Bryson and his brother used to live, and their parents still do.

While Bryson does the majority of his work from Edmonton, his parents connect with many of the organizations in Kamloops on behalf of SCF.

Shirley and Bob Stollery

“They go visit agencies and see programs operating … and that helps keep us aware of what the needs are,” Bryson says. “It allows us to have a more meaningful impact than if our philanthropy was spread more broadly across Canada.”

When the Stollerys started the Foundation, they wanted their funds to support social services, health and education initiatives in their communities. As it evolved, they also made local human rights initiatives a focus. “It came down to finding ways to support vulnerable populations in the community,” says Bryson.

Over the years, SCF has supported Edmonton’s Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts, which predominantly serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who may not be able to access traditional arts programming.

“It was a cause that really spoke to my grandparents,” Bryson says. In addition to $105,000 in startup funding, SCF has invested $35,000 in operational funding and $250,000 in capital funding to create a new permanent space on 118 Avenue for the organization and its programs.

In Kamloops, SCF has awarded $447,000 to Thompson Nicola Cariboo United Way since 2012.

The University of Alberta’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, Bissell Centre’s Community Bridge Program, ASK Wellness Society and the Kamloops and District Elizabeth Fry Society are just a few of the other organizations SCF has supported.

Bryson estimates the Foundation receives between 100 and 120 grant applications per year and awards funding to about 60 of them, between regular and small-grant commitments.

As they look toward the next 25 years, Bryson says the board is focusing on being intentional about family engagement so there is a plan in place for the future of the Foundation.

“As family members move away and get established elsewhere, [the Foundation] continues to bring us back together,” Bryson says.

“It also keeps our eyes and ears and minds open to the needs of the community — because sometimes they’re not in plain view.”

The Stollery Charitable Foundation through the years:

1994: Foundation established by Bob and Shirley Stollery; their children Carol Sharun, Janet Bryson and Doug Stollery join them as foundation officers

1995: First grant of $100,000 over four years ($25,000 per year) to Capital Care Foundation

1997: First grant in Kamloops; $60,000 over two years (first year $25,000, second year $35,000) to the Auxiliary To The Overlander Extended Care Hospital

2000: $1 million granted

2003: Bill Sharun, Spencer Bryson and Scott Graham, spouses of the second-generation family members, become advisors to the board of directors

2004: Carol Sharun, Janet Bryson and Doug Stollery become directors

2005: $5 million granted

2007: Third-generation family members Kate Zalaski, Jeff Bryson, Jon Sharun and Chad Bryson become advisors to the board of directors

2008: $10 million granted; Bill Sharun, Spencer Bryson and Scott Graham become directors

2013: Kate Zalaski, Jeff Bryson, Jon Sharun and Chad Bryson become directors

2014: $20 million granted

2019: 25th anniversary; $37.44 million awarded to 578 projects and programs to date