Robert Richardson didn’t hesitate when he was asked to volunteer with the YMCA of Greater Halifax/Dartmouth. The YMCA’s emphasis on the importance of communities and health in spirit, mind and body is a shared passion he has admired since he was a boy growing up in Halifax’s North End.
Robert, who is the President of Compass Commercial Realty Limited and Executive Vice-President of Killam Properties Inc., is also a past Chair of the YMCA of Greater Halifax/Dartmouth’s Board of Directors. He is currently an Honorary Trustee with the Y and also serves on the YMCA Centre of Community Campaign Cabinet and as the Chair of the Legacy Foundation.
“I know how important it is to have organizations in our community that provide a place for children to grow, find support and leadership,” he said. “When I think about making a difference, I believe if we can impact younger Nova Scotians and Haligonians, we’ll make them more productive and resourceful adults.”
“I was born in Halifax’s Mulgrave Park and spent my early years in the North End with my parents and ten siblings – we were a family with limited means and it wasn’t always easy growing up,” says Robert. “Often, we had to go without and at times didn’t have money for basic food staples or to pay to participate so I know first-hand the kind of life-changing impact that a supportive, nurturing environment can have on a child.”
Robert said he also has a great deal of respect for the organization’s decision to offer programing to participants regardless of their ability to pay, and he applauds the broad influence the organization has established with its inclusive programming. He added he believes the divergence in socio-economic backgrounds of the YMCA’s clients fosters a sense of community that helps people recognize what they have in common, and learn to build on those strengths.
“The new John W. Lindsay YMCA will be a Centre of Community and attract many different types of people of different ages and backgrounds, which will make the city better, “ he said.
Robert believes the strength of the new facility will lie in its embodiment of the organization’s long-standing commitment to serving all members of the community – especially youth.
“The ability to provide a model to give youth an opportunity to come together under strong leadership, structure and support is impactful and will have a noticeable long-term benefit in creating understanding and building a stronger community,” he said.
When he was Board Chair, Robert parlayed his considerate real estate acumen when the organization successfully approached the Halifax Regional Council for additional density in the project site to increase its value and impact. Robert is excited to see construction of the new building underway, and he believes it will function as a necessary economic engine to fund the diverse array of community-based programming the organization offers.
“That includes the work the Y does with child care, Big Cove Camp, rehabilitation and after-school programs, and the Community Y. They all need and benefit from the funding a successful YMCA provides.”
The entrepreneur also admires the YMCA’s adaptability, and explained he has been impressed by the way the organization continues to expand its programming to address emergent needs.
“When I began volunteering with the YMCA, Immigrant Services was not a big program like it is now, and the YMCA is doing a wonderful job with programming for new Canadians,” he said. “They are there for new citizens, which I respect and admire greatly.”
As Chair of the Legacy Foundation, Robert believes highlighting the Legacy Foundation as the organization moves forward will help increase the existing endowment fund – which will put funds in place that the Y can draw on over time to fund its adaptable and reliable programming.
“We’re to set up a dedicated endowment fund, in my thinking, so we can capitalize on the effectiveness of the legacy aspect of a Y that has been serving its community in various incarnations for more than 160 years,” he said. “That history matters to me. The Y has proven itself to be resilient and to be capable of delivering a variety of services to a broad base of Haligonians. They’re adaptable and they rise to meet the challenge of the times.
“That’s why I believe the YMCA is worth funding and it’s worth raising money to build the new facility, and to increase support through the Legacy Foundation as well.”