Labatt helps out hometown once again with L’Arche donation – The London Free Press
It’s been almost 70 years since he lived in London, but Arthur Labatt is still trying to make his hometown a more caring place.
Labatt, 84, and his wife Sonia recently boosted their philanthropy by supporting L’Arche London’s Gathering Place, a community hub in Lambeth assisting adults with intellectual disabilities.
The couple pledged to match donations to put the facility’s $2.5-million fundraising campaign over the top. Labatt said L’Arche provides essential support for intellectually challenged people as their parents age.
“If you have intellectually challenged children, where do they go?” asked Labatt, reached at his cottage southwest of Algonquin Provincial Park.
As great-grandson of brewery founder John Kinder Labatt, he arguably carries London’s most famous surname.
He grew up in London but left when he was 16 to go to school in Toronto and later pursued his own business interests that had nothing to do with the family brewery.
He became an accountant, got into the investment sector and in 1981 founded Trimark Investment Management, a mutual fund company, which was later sold to AIM Funds Management Inc.
Over the years he and his wife Sonia have lived all over the world, but in recent years he has renewed ties to his hometown, serving as chancellor of Western University from 2004-2008.
Western’s health sciences building and school of nursing carry their names to mark their philanthropy, and Labatt Hall at King’s University College is named for Arthur’s mother, Elizabeth (Bessie) Labatt.
The Labatts have a long association with L’Arche going back to 1968, when they lived in Paris and met Jean Vanier, the famed Canadian Catholic theologian and humanitarian who founded the L’Arche network of homes.
“He’s such a charming man. He came over to our cluttered apartment. . . . We later toured his Daybreak facility in Toronto and decided this was something we really wanted to support,” said Labatt.
Labatt said he was delighted that L’Arche had put down roots in Lambeth, a place he remembers fondly on the route to the family cottage in Port Stanley when he was a boy.
While Arthur and Sonia Labatt serve as honorary chairs of the fundraising campaign, they have not had the chance to visit the L’Arche Gathering Place. They hope to make it to Lambeth this fall.
The Gathering Place celebrated its one-year anniversary this month.
It offers a cafe and has programs such as a music circle, adaptive cooking, arts and crafts, and an exercise option.
The Gathering Place and its 60 volunteers serve about 140 clients weekly. More than 400 people are on a waiting list to take part in Gathering Place programs, some of which are operated using Ontario Trillium Foundation grants.