Looking to Brier’s future
Louis Brier Jewish Aged Foundation’s new executive director, Stephen Shapiro. (photo by Lauren Kramer)
It’s been awhile since Louis Brier Jewish Aged Foundation had an executive director, but the fundraising branch of the organization is in good hands since Stephen Shapiro took the position in January.
A Calgarian who moved to Vancouver in 2000, Shapiro comes with impressive credentials. He served as president and chief executive officer of St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation for five years, fundraised at the University of British Columbia with former university president Martha Piper for six years and was deeply involved in cultural affairs and youth direction at the Calgary Jewish Community Centre prior to that.
“I feel I’m at a point in my career when I’ve accomplished a lot in the non-Jewish community and I want to give back to my own community,” Shapiro told the Independent. “I really believe in the mission, philosophy and work this particular institution does. I think our Jewish seniors are a very important part of our community and, with the history they represent, they should be treated with dignity and respect in their later years.”
Shapiro intends to grow the foundation from its current annual fundraising target of between $1 million and $1.2 million. He hopes to at least double that target in the coming years and sees lots of potential opportunities to fundraise in the non-Jewish community.
“Much of Louis Brier is publicly funded,” he said. “There are 215 beds this side of the organization that are contracted through Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, and 40% of our population is non-Jewish. But 99% of the donors to this organization are Jewish. So, part of my mandate is to bring my knowledge of fundraising in the non-Jewish community to apply here.”
Louis Brier is at a crossroads, he added, with much of the building at the end of its lifecycle. Still, a complete redevelopment plan is a number of years away, which means two distinct fundraising efforts are required. “We’re raising money for what we need in the next five to seven years, as well as planning longer term down the road for a potentially new campus,” he said. “Right now, our job is to look after today’s needs and today’s current residents, until such a time that we can build a new facility.”
Immediate needs include improved lounges, better furniture, new freezers in the kitchen and updated security and computer systems, he said.
“The practice of care has changed and evolved and we have to change with that,” Shapiro explained. “Certain things are no longer acceptable – for example, parking people in a hallway to look out the window all day because there’s not enough lounge space. That kind of thing is not considered OK anymore. With some physical improvements and relatively minor renovations, we can do things that improve our lounges and public spaces.”
Because Louis Brier is the largest contracted facility within the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, now is a crucial time to make these upgrades, he added. “Given the size and demographics of the Jewish community, there’s a whole generation of people who are going to need our services quite soon. If anything, given the aging of our population, I think the Jewish needs at Louis Brier will rise, not diminish.”
Shapiro hopes to motivate non-Jews who have family members at Louis Brier to give back to the institution by finding projects in research and best practices that might be of interest to them. “Whether it’s in partnership with UBC or other institutions, promoting excellence in research and clinical care is the way to go here,” he stated. “Everybody could potentially have an interest in that.”
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.