As long-time supporters of their local United Way, Bill and Sharon Siebens have positively impacted thousands of Calgarians’ lives. Their generosity recently earned them a seat at United Way’s Ten Million Dollar Roundtable, a group of international philanthropists who have made investments of $10-million or more over their lifetime. The Siebens are the first Canadians to join the roundtable.
Their philanthropic journey began about 15 years ago when Ms. Siebens began volunteering with United Way of Calgary and Area and saw first-hand the needs in their community.
“Bill and I like to think of ourselves as well-informed about the issues in our community,” says Ms. Siebens. “But the truth is, we can’t ever completely understand what’s happening in our city unless we look to an organization like United Way to show us the way.”
Since then, the couple has worked closely with United Way to identify philanthropic opportunities for multi-sector collaborations, such as the Financial Empowerment and Children and Youth Mental Health initiatives, both pioneered by the Siebens.
Financial Empowerment helps raise individuals and families out of poverty by supporting them to reduce debt, grow savings and build assets.
Initially established as the Financial Stability Initiative by the Siebens and five other families, it has since evolved into a major citywide collaborative.
Since its implementation, the collaborative has put tens of millions of dollars back in the pockets of Calgarians living on low income by helping them access financial supports like tax refunds and benefits.
Not a day goes by that we aren’t reminded of the mental health crisis we are dealing with; more and more children suffering from depression and the loss of young lives through suicide.— Bill Siebens, United Way
This passion for multi-sector initiatives also led to their investment in The Social Impact Lab, an experimental innovation space where United Way agency partners, donors, government and community members come together to develop new solutions to Calgary’s most pressing social issues. The Siebens’ investment is helping fund the first project going through the Lab – the Children and Youth Mental Health Initiative – which is addressing gaps in the systems that make it difficult for children and youth to receive vital mental health support.
“Not a day goes by that we aren’t reminded of the mental health crisis we are dealing with; more and more children suffering from depression and the loss of young lives through suicide,” says Ms. Siebens.
Though grateful for United Way’s Roundtable recognition, the Siebens hope more than anything that their story will inspire others to give back to their community.
“For us, it’s not about the accolades; it’s about investing in programs that have the power to make a real impact in the community,” says Mr. Siebens.
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.