If there is anyone who understands the importance of giving back to community, it’s Jerry Coughlan.
Over six decades, the founder of Coughlan Homes has built 4,500 fine homes and given millions of dollars to local charities in the Durham Region. Stories of the generosity of Coughlan extend all over the area.
Coughlan was the youngest of 11 children. It was his parents who instilled in him a work ethic and vision. Coughlan would help his mother sell vegetables and eggs in Toronto, wherever they could, including by the side of the road. He would work with his father on demolition sites, retrieving and loading large piles of brick and lumber, and take them back to East York, chipping the mortar off the bricks and pulling nails out of the boards so they could be used again.
His father died young and money was tight. At a young age, with the money he made as well as a loan from his mother, Coughlan started up Jerry Coughlan Enterprises and purchased six lots.
He thought he would make $1,000 per house but ended up making $2,000 per house. That was the beginning of what became an empire.
“My brother, Jeff, and I are lucky to have him as a partner,” says Paul Bigioni of Grand Homes Canada, which has partnered with Coughlan Homes on The Fairway Collection at Deer Creek. Fairway is a luxury home project in Ajax, Ont., east of Toronto, that backs onto the Deer Creek golf course. It includes 27 custom luxury homes on one-acre lots.
“We often joke that it’s like having Wayne Gretzky or Tiger Woods teaching you how to play their respective sport,” says Bigioni.
More than 40 years ago, Coughlan purchased 500 acres in Ajax and built a golf course. Twenty years ago he arranged a subdivision agreement for the property. That, Bigioni says, shows Coughlan’s vision as builder.
Giving back to the community where he has had success was “the responsible thing to do,” Coughlan says. He doesn’t like to talk about it or advertise it. Those around him will tell you he speaks with his actions.
“He is incredibly humble and doesn’t do it for the recognition,” Bigioni says.
The list of Coughlan’s philanthropic activity is impressive. The Mildred and Jeremiah Coughlan Scholarship Fund was created by Coughlan in the names of his mother and father to provide financial assistance to students for post-secondary school. He has given $2-million to the Salvation Army, $7-million to the Ajax-Pickering Hospital Foundation, $1-million to the Ajax-Pickering Shoulder Clinic and $5-million to the Grandview Children’s Centre. He has been a part of numerous hospital fundraisers and responsible for many gifts to individuals.
The core mission for many luxury developers and builders is to build community, not just homes. Coughlan understands that having the best community health care possible is a huge part of building communities.
Jared Menkes, executive vice-president of high-rise residential at Menkes Developments Ltd., says his company is involved in “wide range” of initiatives and causes throughout the Greater Toronto Area as well.
The biggest Menkes philanthropic event is its Charity Golf Classic, which this past year raised $160,000 for three health-care organizations: West Park Healthcare Centre, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and Kensington Health.
The company’s fundraising efforts have raised more than $1.4-million since the event’s inception 20 years ago.
“We continually strive to change the landscape of this great city, both literally and figuratively,” Menkes says.
“It is important to us that we’re able to give back to the communities in which we operate our business.”
Menkes adds that, while buyers have choices when it comes to selecting a builder, if given the choice between two equally experienced companies, a buyer might opt to invest with the one they deem to be a good corporate citizen. Buyers want to invest with a company they know and trust, and likely one who shares similar values.
Being a developer with a conscience makes a difference. Philanthropy on its own is an important thing, says Rosehaven Homes president Marco Guglietti, but it’s also a way to connect with buyers in all of a developer’s projects, bound by a moral responsibility to improve community.
He and Rosehaven vice-president Silvio Guglietti point to the example set by their parents in their support of hospitals and community services. They have given vast sums of wealth to these causes: $1.5-million to Princess Margaret Hospital; $500,000 to The Hospital for Sick Children; $500,000 to Villa Charities; $500,000 to Oakville Hospital; $500,000 to MacKenzie Health and $250,000 to St. Joseph’s Hospital. They also support numerous hospitals with funds raised through the We Love You Connie Foundation, which was named after Marco’s daughter Connie, who died in 2016 at the age of nine after developing a rare brain stem tumour.
Stonebrook Developments is another luxury developer who has supported various causes, including the Rotary Club of Collingwood as its Monaco condominiums project there gains steam. Company president Remo Niceforo says they will look to engage in an even more meaningful way as the project advances.
In addition to builders, real estate organizations are also very active in their communities. RE/MAX Canada, for instance, supports the Children’s Miracle Network, and last year raised $4.6 million to help 2.8 million sick and injured children across Canada. RE/MAX agents who sign on commit a portion of their sales commissions to the program, now in its 27th year. The costs for families for life-saving treatments can be staggering, so the program really hits home with RE/MAX brokers and agents.
“Big brands like RE/MAX are seen as role models in the community, and there’s definitely a public expectation of corporate social responsibility,” says Christopher Alexander, executive vice-president and regional director of RE/MAX INTEGRA’s Ontario-Atlantic region.
“Charity at the corporate level strengthens communities, it heightens awareness, and it fosters a culture of giving at the individual level. And, quite simply, it feels good to help.”
This content was produced by The Globe and Mail’s Globe Content Studio, in consultation with an advertiser. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.