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Large Donation

February 6, 2011 permalink

Billionaire John MacBain has donated $750,000 to Niagara children's aid.



FACS gets a $750,000 windfall from MacBain

When it comes to Christmas gifts, Santa has nothing on John MacBain.

On Wednesday, the billionaire former Niagara Falls resident stunned Family and Children's Services (FACS) Niagara with a $750,000 pledge towards the agency's massive expansion on Canadian Drive.

The news left fundraisers for the project speechless, including longtime United Way advocate Janie Palmer.

"I was with the United Way for 12 years, and this doesn't happen," she beamed.

Palmer said the FACS fundraising team, which includes Ann-Louise Branscombe and Anne Kemp, had a goal of $1 million for the project, of which it took a year to raise $655,000. MacBain's gift ends the campaign on a spectacular note, going $405,000 over the target.

The additional funds will make it that much easier to pay for the $3.4 million building, which opens in May. The project has already received $1.6 million in federal and provincial funding.

MacBain's donation also gave him naming rights to the building. It will now be known as the Shelley MacBain Centre of Family and Children's Services, named after his adopted sister.

"Mr. MacBain just amazed us," said Palmer.

The son of former Niagara Falls MP Al MacBain, John made a fortune with his chain of Auto Trader magazines, owning all of them except Ontario's. In 2006, he sold the company for $2 billion. The A.N. Myer grad currently lives in Switzerland.

The MacBain Community Centre, to which he gave $1 million, is named after his parents Al, who died in 2003, and Viola, who died in 1999.

Because he had made such a huge donation to the community centre, Palmer was hesitant to ask the wealthy entrepreneur for a FACS contribution despite the fact he created the McCall MacBain Foundation with his sister in 2007 to benefit community resources.

It was city alderman Wayne Thomson, a longtime friend of Al, who encouraged her to reach out.

"I asked Wayne, 'What do you think?,' and he said, 'It can't hurt to ask.'"

"Al never said 'no' when asked to support local people," said Thomson in a statement. "He was the soul of generosity and hard work. You could always count on him to come through. John and Shelley have inherited their parents' huge hearts."

The expanded FACS building will include new indoor and outdoor play areas, a family visiting room, more meeting space and improved privacy. In total, the space will increase by 9,000 square feet.

Construction began in June.

An elated Palmer said MacBain's phone call on Wednesday left everyone shocked. In a good way.

"This was the gift of all gifts," she said. "I've never been involved in anything like that.

"When he said, 'It's been approved,' everybody was looking at each other going 'Wow!' And there's some seasoned fundraisers in that room. It was amazing. He's a very compassionate man, and we're thrilled he's named it for his sister."

Source: Niagara Falls Review