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Janice O’Born Proves You Don’t Have to Run a Social Enterprise to be a Philanthropist

Helping others help themselves.


When I was growing up, I was encouraged to give back to the community in which we lived to support those people less fortunate than our family. Since then, volunteering for various causes has been an important part of my life. Volunteer work is not sitting in front of a computer, but rather, saying a caring word, filling boxes at a food bank or twisting the arm of reluctant executives.

In 1985, my husband, Earle O’Born, decided that our family’s company — The Printing House Limited (TPH) — needed a unified approach to address the increasing number of requests for the donation of printing services. To achieve this objective, The Printing House Charitable Office was launched and I was appointed chairman.

TPH’s goal, which is set out in a policy, is to support selected charities in the communities in which we conduct business. The main beneficiaries of our charitable efforts are causes that improve the lives of women and children, particularly in the areas of health and education. All donors, big or small, benefit from having a clear direction in regard to the dollars and services they donate, as without guidelines, the support risks becoming scattered and less effective.

Over the past 26 years, we have donated printing to more than a thousand charities, organized clothing drives, participated in special events and more. More than $35 million has been raised to benefit hospitals, healthcare foundations, schools and other charities.

An important part of my role as chairman is to encourage volunteerism and philanthropy among the TPH staff, as internal fundraising is a big part of our corporate culture. Along with personal donations, many of our employees walk, run and pedal to raise money for charities. Without the involvement of our employees at all levels, the efforts of the Charitable Office would have far less of an impact.

My volunteering extends beyond the TPH Charitable Office and I currently serve on boards of a number of charities including the Canadian Centre for Diversity and SickKids Foundation.

I am also the fundraising co-chair for the True Patriot Love Tribute Dinner, which benefits the Canadian military and their families, and serve as an advisor to the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research. Three of the TPH Charitable Office’s most successful events have been Brazilian Carnival Balls. In 1990, we helped raise $800,000 for The Hospital for Sick Children, in 1996 approximately $1.6 million for Sunnybrook Health Science Centre’s Trauma Unit and in 2009, both my husband and I chaired this event, raising approximately $2.7 million on behalf of the SickKids Foundation.

Those of us who have achieved a level of financial security in our lives must take responsibility to help and support those less fortunate than ourselves and to seek change to ensure that the causes of personal hardship and distress are lessened, if not eradicated.

The spirit of volunteerism and philanthropy begins with a genuine concern for our fellow human beings. I want to end each day knowing that I, and all the women of influence I know, have done our best in making a genuine and long-lasting difference to the lives of other Canadians.

With a vision to promote philanthropy, Janice O’Born and her husband launched The Printing House Charitable Office in 1985, donating printing to thousands of charities. She has devoted much of her time to various organizations in addition to her own endeavours, such as chairing the Brazilian Carnival Ball with her husband. This philanthropist has a deep appreciation of what it means to offer help. Her words will encourage you to understand the true meaning of volunteering.