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What have you done for someone else lately?

By Leo Valiquette

Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with several individuals who reminded me how much a natural part of doing business it should be for philanthropy and giving back in some way to the community that sustains you.

At VLN Advanced Technologies, founder Mohan Vijay spent 13 years fighting uphill to commercialize his company’s forced-pulse waterjet technology. When at last his ship came in, the 75-year-old immediately redirected much of his company’s new profitability into the VLN Reach Foundation. Through his foundation, Vijay supports the Make A Wish Foundation, the Ottawa-Carleton Association for Persons with Developmental Disabilities, the Brain Injury Association of Canada and Propeller Dance, and also makes cash donations to many other charities each year.

But most inspiring of all is his ambitious plan to create a sustainable funding model for worthy charities that struggle year after year to muster sufficient funding. He wants to construct a mixed-use development that operates on a not-for-profit basis, with any net profits donated to charity. The site could be used for almost anything: a convention centre, a retail space, commercial office space, condos or some combination thereof. But the most jaw-dropping aspect of his plan is the physical shape that he wants the building to take.

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