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Port Stanley News RSS Feed  News Family of Ellis Don makes million dollar gift to London, Ontario charity


Youth Opportunities Unlimited

Ontario's first female Solicitor General and social justice champion, Joan Smith, to be honoured with naming of new centre to support expectant teen moms, young mothers and babies

London, ON - October 24, 2017 - London-based Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU), a 35 year old London-based charity, will be the recipient of an unprecedented $1 million dollar gift by the children of former Solicitor General, Joan Smith, and construction leader, Don Smith, in honour of their mother. Smith, who began her community service as a volunteer with London-based charities and as a member of local municipal council, went on to serve in David Peterson's Liberal government and became the province's first female Solicitor General.

The facility, dubbed The New Addition , will retrofit a vacant space in London's downtown to become a home for youth, expectant teen moms, and new mothers and babies who experience homelessness or are at risk of homelessness. It will provide safe and affordable homes and act as an integrated program hub focused on physical and mental health, employment, education and training.

The project was an ideal fit to honour their mother's social justice legacy, said daughter Lynne Cram, who noted that she felt her mother would agree.

"From an early age, she recognized her own good fortune, and made a commitment to helping the most vulnerable in this province, in particular women and children. She would be proud to see us support a centre that will carry on her legacy and benefit a new generation of young mothers and their babies."

Following her death in 2016 at the age of 88, Smith continues to be well-known as a tireless advocate for social policy change, from the establishment of Madame Vanier Children's Services in London in 1965, to altering legislation on gay rights and police conduct, during her time as Solicitor General in the 1980s.

Throughout extensive accomplishments in public and community service, and while supporting her husband as he established Ellis Don Construction, Smith was a dedicated mother of seven children who have gone on to be business and community leaders across Canada. YOU Chief Executive Officer, Steve Cordes, said the gift is as significant in meaning as it is in dollar value.

"Joan Smith was a trailblazer in every sense of the word. We cannot think of a more fitting tribute to her legacy or a more inspiring gesture for the young people this facility will serve," said Cordes. "Her legacy will inspire a new generation of mothers and their children - who, with the right support, will be community builders themselves."

A family with deep roots in London, The Smiths have designed their gift to encourage more leadership and community gifts, by structuring it as a matching fund for the $8.2 million total capital campaign.

Their goal, said son Michael Smith, is to bring as many supporters as possible to this important cause, in the same way their mother worked to link others to important issues and causes. "Our mother was well-known as a community connector, so we're inviting fellow community leaders to connect to this cause and help even more young women and their children at the most vulnerable time in their lives. We will match every gift, dollar for dollar, to the $1 million dollar mark."

Smith's children and grandchildren gathered with YOU supporters and community partners in London on Tuesday, at the future site of The Joan Smith Centre for Youth, to celebrate the gift and honour her legacy.

Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 October 2017 15:02:01 PM EST

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