We believe change happens when everyone has the chance to realize their potential.
That’s why we’re in the business of giving chances. Life-altering ones to children, adolescents, and the homeless. Like the chance to get an education. And live in a dignified way. But you can’t realize your potential when you’re just trying to survive, which is the reason we only fund organizations that address can’t-live-without-it needs like food, water, and shelter, and projects that offer innovative, compassionate, no-nonsense support where it’s most urgently required — in the realms of health and education. As for impact, we’re impatient. We want kids educated and homelessness mitigated today. Which is why we only support organizations making that happen today.
A decade in, we’ve proven that a small foundation can accomplish big things.
Bob passes away on November 4th at the Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ontario at age 76.
In April, the Robert Kerr Foundation officially receives registered charity status as a private foundation, and Joel Rose, Bob’s lawyer, and friend, becomes its trustee.
The foundation, now governed by three directors: Joel Rose, Jeff Lyons, and Karen Greve Young allocates its first grants, but does not yet have an operations staff. Joel, who has managed operations at Blue Star since Bob’s death, facilitates its sale to West Van, a Toronto-based trailer rental company.
In February, Bri Trypuc becomes executive director to oversee operations, charitable activity, and community grants. The foundation gets a logo and a giving strategy to target the basic needs of children, adolescents, and the chronically homeless, focused specifically on organizations that address critical health and education needs. It also implements a grant application and charity review process.
On July 26, 2015, Jeff Lyons dies unexpectedly. The board goes through a transitional period. Karen Greve Young steps down, and Andrew Freedman, Rustom Satchu, and Lorne Rose join as directors. By the end of 2018, the foundation is allocating between $350,000-$500,000 annually.
On a site visit to Evangel Hall Mission before he dies, Jeff Lyons is appalled to learn that tooth extraction is the only affordable option for homeless people who have cavities but no dental insurance. Determined to bring public awareness to the issue, he passes away before he can fully realize his vision. To honour him, the board commits $130,000 to build a new dental clinic for homeless people at Evangel Hall Mission. In June 2019, the charity breaks ground on the new facility, the foundation’s first independently led and funded capital project.
In January, the dental clinic unofficially opens its doors. Plans are put in place to hold an official ribbon-cutting ceremony in the spring but are foiled by the arrival, in March, of a global pandemic. In April 2020, in collaboration with intimates apparel brand Knix, the foundation launches an Emergency Crisis Relief Campaign to purchase personal protective equipment and distribute PPE weekly to 85 homeless organizations in the Greater Toronto Area. The foundation now allocates between $400,000-$750,000 annually.
The foundation hires a part-time program officer, embarks on a strategy to grant $750,000-a-year, and rebrands to signal its new direction and share Bob Kerr’s story more widely. After a decade during which RKF engages in program-related grant-making and helps fund a capital construction project, the foundation begins funding special capital projects. It co-launches an Emergency Crisis Relief Campaign (Knix x RKF PPE), and independently leads and funds two capital ventures: Bob’s Dental Clinic (Evangel Hall Mission) and Bob’s Kitchen (Ve’ahavta).
The foundation officially launches its new website in September and becomes a strategic donor in Toronto’s north west with investments in Big Brothers Big Sisters Toronto (North), Believe to Achieve and Philpott Children’s Tennis. RKF has launched an online, automated grant management program to make it easier for applicants and more effective for our staff and board.
We’re a small team with big ambitions, guided by principle and passion, informed by a range of expertise and perspectives, and dedicated to honouring Bob Kerr and his legacy.
Our Fearless Leader
Joel is our president. Mostly he’s our rock. He holds us accountable to our values and standards and is the only one of us who knew Bob Kerr. He’s constantly bringing us ideas and connections, and just like Bob, loves to give chances to those who truly need and warrant them, especially kids.
The Numbers Guy
Andrew’s the director who’s always quizzing our financial advisors at our investment committee meetings. But he doesn’t just have deep business valuation, investigative and forensic accounting expertise. He also understands the charitable sector and what it takes for charities, especially small ones, to run a great operation. In addition, he’s open-hearted, creative, loves new ideas, and cares passionately about our work.
Originally from Kenya, Rustom’s the director who brings an outsider’s perspective to our deliberations. Supremely objective, he asks the important questions, such as whether our investments are generating the highest return, and what’s really driving our decisions: our relationships, or the good of the foundation. Always up for site visits, he helps us keep it real.
The Next Gen-er
Lorne is the director invariably curious about a charity’s impact. Through his Aboriginal law work for the Ministry of the Attorney General, he has developed a keen interest in indigenous organizations, prompting us to expand our horizons beyond the city of Toronto.
A former wealth management consultant and co-creator of Charity Intelligence Canada, our executive director Bri isn’t just a highly regarded thought leader in the philanthropic sector. She’s a workhorse, analytical and financial wizard, a passionate advocate for our charities and causes, a compassionate intermediary with applicants and grantees, and the linchpin for our board. Her vision, leadership, and upbeat presence always inspire.
The Charity Champion
Susan, our program officer, comes to us from summerlunch+, a charity she founded and we funded providing summer food programming for kids. A frontline organizer, she assists with grant review and administration, operations and charity relations. Always keen to contribute, she’s an eternal optimist who believes in everyone’s capacity to do good in the world.