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Prince Charles rallies top level support for his Canadian causes Add to ...

Inspired by a visit to a former cotton-milling town in Massachusetts, Charles hoped the face-to-face contact with the community would spur executives to consider new investments aimed at both economic and social revitalization. The initiative, formalized in 1990 as the Prince's Seeing is Believing program, has taken some 8,000 executives on similar trips.

In January, the Prince's Charities Canada introduced the program to Toronto, bringing a group that included retail maven Hilary Weston to two youth-focused organizations in the city's downtown core. After spending the day chatting with youth and learning about the barriers they face, the executives were asked to brainstorm ways to help.

A few are already acting. The Printing House Ltd., offered a paid internship to a former drug dealer that one of its executives met at the Yonge Street Mission, and John Honderich of Torstar became an ad-hoc mentor for Moses Reid, 19, who's lived alone for the past four years and plans to be a physicist.

Weston Bakeries' vice-president of advertising contracted two paid projects from students at U for Change, a part-time arts program geared at getting young people into higher education and jobs in the creative sector. Alejandra Pacheco said the project will help boost her portfolio before she goes to Humber College in the fall to study film and TV production.

“It pays to invest in these kinds of programs, because they're helping a lot of youth,” she said.

When Charles is in Toronto on Tuesday, he'll hold a sit-down with the executives and ask them to report back on what they've done so far – and detail the next steps they're planning to take.

Barry Avrich, chief executive of Endeavour Marketing, plans to run a series of master classes at U for Change this fall helping young people market themselves as they look for jobs.

“When someone calls and they say they're doing work on behalf of the Prince, yeah, of course you're going to take note,” he said.

PRINCE'S HONOUR

It was a diligently restored 18th-century home in Fredericton that won Prince Charles over. On a tour of the property in 1996, he asked the Heritage Canada Foundation what he could do to promote the conservation of historic places.

The non-profit foundation created the annual Prince of Wales Prize for Municipal Heritage Leadership. There's no cash incentive, but winners receive bragging rights, a plaque, a flag for the city or town hall, and a letter from Charles commending their work.

“There's a prestige associated with it,” said Carolyn Quinn, from Heritage Canada Foundation. “And it kind of sets a bar for incoming councils.”

Past winners include Peterborough, Ont., Quebec City, Edmonton and Victoria. This year's winner will be announced in the fall.

FROM COMBAT TO CLASS

When a medical officer told Steve Hebert he'd have to stop flying, the 42-year-old air combat operations officer was initially crestfallen – and then he started planning his next moves.

He'd known the decision was coming: A helicopter crash nine years ago had left him with three herniated discs – a problem which flared up on a 2007 trip to Afghanistan, making it difficult to walk and leaving him reeling in pain.

Two weeks ago, after years of attempts to treat him, the Canadian Forces recommended he be released.

“They can't fix me, so they're basically going to be letting me go,” Mr. Hebert said. “That's why I had to come up with a business idea.”

He'd completed a masters degree in disaster and emergency management and a week-long free boot camp at Newfoundland's Memorial University. The camp, called Based in Business, pairs select students from Memorial with transitioning soldiers to bring them up to speed on accounting, human resources management and the latest marketing techniques.

Mr. Hebert says the students taught him skills it would have taken a year or more to master on his own. “I think it's fantastic,” he said. “It was unbelievably useful, and when I got back I started telling everyone I knew about it.”

His new business, Nordem, helps municipalities and businesses with emergency planning and has already completed a contract with a small town in Yukon.

This year, the Prince's Charities Canada will help ramp up the Memorial program, pairing it with the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, an affiliate of another youth business organization established by Prince Charles in the U.K.

That means Canadian Forces entrepreneurs who are accepted into the new program, called the Prince's Operation Entrepreneur, will have access to seed money, specialized mentoring and ongoing support – in addition to the week-long boot camp.

“I'm going to do what I can to stay with them,” Mr. Hebert said, “and maybe even mentor the next generation of people going through from the military.”

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