For capital campaign donor and long-time Y volunteer Robert Richardson, the strength of the new John W. Lindsay YMCA facility lies in its embodiment of the organization’s long-standing commitment to serving all members of the community – especially youth.
Robert is drawn to the YMCA’s emphasis on communities and health in spirit, mind and body, a shared passion he has admired since he was a boy growing up in the North End of Halifax.
“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.”
“The ability to provide a model to give youth an opportunity to come together under good leadership and structure and support is impactful and will have a noticeable long-term benefit in creating understanding and building a stronger community,” he said.
Robert 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.
“The new John W. Lindsay YMCA will be a Centre of Community and should attract a wide range of people with different ages and backgrounds, which will make the city better,“ he said.
Robert also believes the new John W. Lindsay YMCA will be the economic engine the organization needs to realize its full potential.
Robert is currently the President of Compass Commercial Realty and Executive Vice-President of Killam Properties Inc. At the YMCA he serves as a YMCA Honorary Trustee, the Chair of the Legacy Foundation, and a member of the Capital Campaign Cabinet. He’s also a past board member and Chair.
When Robert was Chair of the Board, he parlayed his considerable real estate acumen to successfully approach the Halifax Regional Council for additional density on the project site to increase its value and impact. Robert says the request followed city core development trends elsewhere in North America, where population and services in core areas are being intensified, which increases the need for multi-use structures.
“When I arrived, the former Y building was 60 years old, he said. “It was an example of a building that was extremely well-used during its tenure but it needed to be replaced. The land where the facility was located was owned by the YMCA, and that was an important legacy component that we could access for value for leverage in building the new Y. Today, people seek services and additional facilities within these structures, so we’ve chosen to go with a mixed-use facility. We hope it allows people to have ownership, and increases the value proposition.”
Robert added it is exciting to see work begin at the construction site, and he believes the new facility 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 childcare, Big Cove Camp, rehabilitation and after-school programs, and the Community Y. They all need funding from a successful YMCA.”
“I’m also looking forward to setting up a dedicated endowment fund with the Legacy Foundation, so we can capitalize on the legacy aspect of a Y that has been serving its community in various incarnations for more than 160 years.”