This article first appeared in the September issue of the Anglican Journal.
Monica Patten came by her lifelong passion for philan-thropy honestly. “My parents were my role models,” says Patten, who in June was named a member of the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest civilian honours. Growing up in Waterloo, Que., where her father was rector of an Anglican church, she saw both her parents involved in school boards and public libraries. “It was just part of family life,” says Patten, who was honoured for her leader-ship in the voluntary sector and for her work as president and CEO of Community Foun-dations of Canada (CFC).
The CFC, an umbrella organization for diverse community-based fundraising foundations, reports that in her two decades as CEO, it grew from 28 member foundations with assets of $500 million to 170 members with assets total-ling $3 billion.
It was in Boston in the late 1960s that Patten, as an isolated young mother, began her charitable work in earnest. “My husband was very busy and away a lot, and I was not legally able to work in the U.S.,” she recalls. “I was very lonely and knew I needed to be involved in the community.” She began helping with one of the first health-and-education Head Start programs in the U.S., at a children’s mental health centre and on a mental health commission.
Returning to Ottawa, she volunteered with correctional services, writing pre-sen-tencing reports on inmates. Eventually she joined the staff of United Way of Canada, and in 1993 took the helm of the fledging CFC.
Upon hearing of her nomination, Patten’s first thought was a modest “Why me? Canada is full of caring in-dividuals.” For her, the reward is in the satisfaction of helping others. Her advice for people who fear they lack the time to volunteer? “Start small. Be spontaneous. Find something you can jump into quickly. You can choose to do as little as you want.”