When Ron Schlegel speaks about his father, Wilfred, there is reverence in his voice. When his sons speak of their grandfather, admiration shines through, as does their commitment to follow his example as a generous community builder always looking for opportunities to help a neighbour.
When the Wilfred Schlegel Hope Fund was launched through Schlegel Villages in early 2018, it was meant to honour the legacy of the man for whom it was named. As a benevolent fund, it grows based on the voluntary payroll deductions of team members, which are in turn matched by the Schlegel Family. The intention was for funds to be allocated on an “as needed” basis to team members facing unforeseen financial hardship through a difficult time. There have been house fires and sudden illness to set a team member and family back; spouses laid off or the sudden loss of a loved one.
The fund is there as a means of support, a glimmer of hope from the wider Schlegel Family, and it has been there through COVID-19. The pandemic has reshaped the needs of all Canadians and thrown challenges large and small at everyone; early on the Hope Fund was recognized as an avenue to help.
At the end of March, while the pandemic lockdown was still in its early stage, The Schlegel Family donated an additional $200,000 to the fund, knowing that team members were facing unique pressures. Just getting to work when public transit was shut down in most cities was a burden, and the Hope Fund was there. A separate committee of volunteers was quickly established to assess each pandemic request and they met at least twice a week when applications were at their peak. Since the end of March, more than 500 team members have received approximately $375,000 in total support.
“It’s like a pay it forward,” says one of the committee members. “The ability to help out people, being able to provide a bit of support and comfort to team members, that is very special. “Some of the stories are heart-wrenching,” she adds, “but I’m hoping that the recipients are as gracious in what they get as what we are in being able to provide that bit of support to them.”
Beyond COVID, hardships still arise and the regular committee is still very much active; there have been fires, job losses and sudden grief as a barrier to work. The fund is there, supported and fuelled by anonymous team members, as well as families, residents and community partners looking to support the team members who give of themselves so freely in the Villages.
#IGiveHope is a reminder of the legacy behind the Fund; Wilfred Schlegel was a humble community builder, always there to lend a hand, and Schlegel Villages team members embody that spirit every day. Click here to learn more about the Hope Fund and if you are able, please consider donating to the WSHF this month during our #IGiveHope Campaign.