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Life-long volunteer Jim Bennett shares his philanthropic advice

Bennett, who recently opened a Trust Fund with SurreyCares, hopes to inspire selflessness among youth.

Life on the West Coast isn’t too shabby. We all know that, but do we wake up every day thankful for it?

Perhaps, we should show our gratitude towards this luxurious West Coast life by giving back a little more?

If there’s someone who knows about giving back, it’s Jim Bennett. For more than 30 years, Bennett has been working for non-profit organizations, and nobody could do a better job of telling you why giving back should be a necessity, not an option.

While chatting with SurreyCares, Bennett explained how it’s his volunteer trips overseas that have left the biggest impact on him.

Bennett mentions visiting an African country, where he helped hand out 650 pairs of glasses in six days.

“It costs maybe a few thousand bucks to change lives for hundreds of people,” Bennett said.

Of those 650 pairs of glasses that were handed out, there was exchange in particular that stood out.

“There was a grandma with her 17-year-old grandson, and with her deteriorating eye sight, she never knew what he looked like. When she put on the glasses, she was able to see her grandson for the first time. I get emotional just talking about it.”

A Lifetime of Volunteering

While Bennett has travelled around the world on volunteering expeditions, his philanthropic experience began locally – and at a young age no less.

“I first started volunteering with my family when I was in kindergarten,” Bennett said, “which was sort of unusual back then because volunteering wasn’t as common.

After beginning his volunteering career while other kids were frolicking in the sandbox, Bennett never looked back.

The breadth of his volunteering experience is truly something to marvel at. He’s completed a ton of giving back locally. That includes a trip to Parliament in the 1990s, which helped him open Canada’s first free needle exchange in an RCMP jurisdiction, to stop the spread of HIV. More recently, he’s been involved with volunteer efforts in developing countries, focused on improving access to food, shelter and healthcare.

“I’ve done a lot of giving back locally, but after traveling the world and giving back in other countries, I really see the need to give back, especially to developing countries.”

Recently, Bennett continued to express his philanthropy by creating the “Jim Bennett Trust Fund” with SurreyCares back in September 2018. With this Trust Fund, Bennett has two main goals in mind.

“Not much time left in my life so with this Trust Fund, there has to be a happy medium between providing teachable moments and making that money go a long way.”

Earlier this month, Bennett made his first donation from the Trust Fund – a $25,000 donation to the Surrey Crime Prevention Society “LIFT” High School Work Experience Program.

“Getting kids involved in volunteerism and philanthropy is the backbone of giving back,” he said.

Passing the torch

As Bennett mentioned, one of the main goals for his Trust Fund is to provide those teachable moments, especially for the younger generation.

“I’m just a guy giving to connect kids with the community, he said. “Volunteering makes kids better citizens, and eventually they will fund programs with the same line of thinking in mind.

“It’s impossible to get into giving and philanthropic thinking without starting to volunteer.” Bennett points out that there are many ways of giving back, and it doesn’t just apply to young people.

“There needs to be a culture of giving at every level of society.”

“Often, the culture of giving back gets pushed aside by other “priorities.” Many of us try to save for a car, for example. In developing countries, you can donate to build a hospital wing, and if you donate a certain amount, you could have it named after you. I’d rather have the hospital wing named after me than drive a fancy car.”

According to Bennett, volunteering doesn’t always have to be about getting your hands dirty. He mentions Fundraising dinners as an excellent platform for meeting people, giving back and enjoying an evening.

“Fundraising dinners are a great way to give back, but people always frown because of the price. A $100 fundraising ticket shouldn’t be viewed as a prohibitive expense. You’d spend that much if you had a night out at a steakhouse. You can have a night out at fundraising dinners AND give back at the same time! What a concept!”

While Bennett’s Trust Fund aims to give regionally and internationally, he notes that the importance of keeping the fund local with SurreyCares provides teachable moments in philanthropy for the younger generation.

“We need to teach kids out here about volunteering,” he said. “The money needs to be in Surrey and hopefully there will be a difference in the way we look at volunteering here in the years to come.”



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