Fort York Food Bank. Annual Open House. 21 November 2018.

Volunteer Profile

Jim Ward
In Remembrance

FYFB celebrates the life and legacy of co-founder Charles James "Jim" Ward who passed away on April 2. Jim was a larger than life force in FYFB's early years and helped establish the strong core of values and culture of respect than define our agency today.

Jim helped found FYFB as part of a dedicated group of frontline Daily Bread Food Bank volunteers who were asked to create a downtown food bank when Daily Bread moved from their location on Lakeshore and Bathurst to Etobicoke. First as a senior volunteer, then as program coordinator and finally as steering committee chair and board director, Jim's dedication to helping create an organization that welcomes everyone was truly inspirational.

Jim was dedicated to ensuring that the daily operations ran smoothly and to creating a culture at FYFB where volunteers knew they were essential to the delivery its services. By his own example, Jim encouraged everyone to work a bit harder.

FYFB board chair Ravi Sreedharan remembers Jim for his selfless dedication to creating a positive volunteer environment. "There was a point in the early years when we had an opportunity to hire Jim as an employee," recalled Ravi. "At the time, we were in a building spread out over two floors and it was challenging for volunteers to move food between them. Jim turned down the position and suggested that we use the money to install a dumb waiter instead, to make things easier for all the volunteers. The story demonstrates his love of the agency and thoughts for the volunteers."

FYFB program coordinator Mike Schoonheyt first met Jim in September of 2001 when he started as a volunteer. "We were such a fledgling but vibrant agency when I first got involved," remembered Mike. "It was Jim and all of you at that time that made me as a client feel comfortable and FYFB simply felt different from what one would expect. It always amazes me that we begin to understand someone's value the most when we lose them."

Jim's commitment to shared values created an environment where people of different views and walks of life could come together to help people in need in our community. Board vice chair Devi Arasanayagam first met Jim in the early 90s at Daily Bread where she started out as a Saturday volunteer. "Jim was a bit scary at first," remembers Devi, "but as you got to know him you realized that behind the big gruff guy there was a heart of gold. While we always looked at things very differently, we basically had the same values. This is what I liked about FYFB - the diversity, the tolerance, everyone made welcome. We had people from Bay Street to Main Street working side by side."

As FYFB grew, Jim's impact continued to grow as the chair of the Steering Committee as he represented the voice of the client as the Board entered into a major strategic planning process in 2002. "I was fortunate to get to know Jim as he represented the Steering Committee when I joined the Board in 2002," said director and Strategic Planning Committee Chair Doug Anweiler. "Jim was an important member of the team that helped develop our current strategic plan and identity. It is important that we do something to remember Jim's legacy at FYFB as today we are standing his shoulders."

Outside FYFB, Jim was a voracious reader, a great cook who welcomed friends and a huge fan of Queen Elizabeth II. "One day, when we were at the Wheatsheaf, one of the volunteers at the table insulted the Queen and Jim just got up and left, remembers Devi. "He felt so strongly about it."

Ravi added this closing thought on Jim's legacy at FYFB, "We build close relationships at FYFB by working closely together for a common cause. Interestingly enough, Jim and I didn't really get along when we were both volunteers at the Daily Bread Food Bank; perhaps because we were both small fish in a big pond. At FYFB, we learned how to run an agency together and faced a wide variety of issues; many related to our survival as an agency. I choose to remember Jim for the legacy that he created at FYFB, the memories that we have together and the friendships he built, rather than viewing his passing away as a loss."

Jim's life was celebrated at a memorial service for family, friends and colleagues on May 6th at the Cardinal Funeral Home.

photography courtesy of Claire Del Net

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