Philanthropy Behind The Scenes
Acts of kindness can come in many shapes and forms - as simple as helping en elderly person with their groceries and holding the door for the person behind you, or as grand as arranging a turkey drive to feed entire communities. Such acts, albeit rare these days, remind us all of the goodness in humanity - the inherent need to do good deeds, to love and be loved. Many of these acts are celebrated, publicized, and glorified to the masses, while others go unnoticed - even sometimes unappreciated. However, the individuals and groups behind the latter are not seeking recognition for their efforts, but rather, to make a true impact and help the lives of their fellow man/woman. Below are some of the most active, yet incognito, philanthropists in the City of Toronto.
While Sylvia Mantella is not exactly “unnoticed” - as she is one of the most active Canadians in the philanthropy space across - she is definitely one who is focussed more on the overall effect of her work, rather than the praise she receives. Although it is hard to go unnoticed when you have a chair on 13 different committees and advisory boards, and when your efforts provide help to so many different individuals and communities, both at home and abroad, Sylvia continues to devote her focus to the growth of these efforts. Her love for philanthropy and work in the field began with a home purchase in South Florida, which ultimately became a wildlife conservatory for abused and displaced animals. Today, the sanctuary is home to over 250 animals, many of which are endangered and rare species, including Bengal tigers and Amur leopards, and employs 14 full-time zoologists, 24/7 monitoring to care for the animals - all funded with her and her husband’s own money. Major involvement with large groups such as SickKids Hospital, Boost Child & Youth Advocacy Centre, and the Covenant House are all also part of her philanthropic pursuits, and further add to the reach of her efforts, providing aid to a diverse list of individuals with various needs.
The owner of the fastest-growing Middle-Eastern dining franchise in North America, "Paramount Fine Foods", is none other than Mr. Mohamad Fakih, a Lebanese-Canadian immigrant who not only graces the palettes of thousands everyday with the delicious food his restaurants serve, but also helps to improve their lives through his philanthropic work. Mr. Fakih first opened his restaurant in 2006, and now has over 76 locations around the world, serving Middle-Eastern eats such as shawarma, manakeesh, and other regional dishes. Having become a public figure around the Greater Toronto Area for his activity in helping the Middle Eastern community, Mohamad has shown, time and time again, his dedication to helping others. His activism in standing up for human rights and combating racism has been brought to the forefront on multiple occasions, and is exemplary of his dedication to spreading love and goodness. In one instance, he even personally helped a Syrian restaurant in Downtown Toronto, which had shut down after facing racist threats, to open back up and remain operational. His recent efforts have led to the establishment of the Canada Strong campaign , which has raised millions of dollars to help families impacted by the Iranian Miliary’s mistaken attack on a Ukrainian passenger flight with over 63 Canadians on board, and also the families of the recent explosion in the harbour of Beirut, in his home country of Lebanon.
Ardy Khavari is one person whose actions and personality are far from what one would commonly expect from a merchant banker and real estate developer of his stature. Far from the out-of-touch, narcissistic rich, fancy suit-wearing businessman which many stereotype most developers as being, Ardy is a prime example of someone who uses their influence and financial success to help give back to the community, and help the less fortunate through his actions. His activity in the philanthropic arena is widespread, and through his group Neo’s Foundation, he works with a multitude of charitable organizations, in order to connect them with various high level donors from his own extensive network of investors and high-level business contacts. Mr. Khavari has worked with SickKids Hospital, CANFAR, Full Table Project, and most recently, I Love First Peoples, a non-profit organization which works to serve Indigenous Communities across Canada, and help with overcoming many of the daily obstacles faced by the Indigenous Peoples on First Nations lands, especially remote communities with limited access to transportation and goods.
All of his admirable efforts are pursued with the sole intention of providing true help to individuals in need, and while many media outlets have covered his activities, the purpose behind his endeavours is never recognition - rather, on facilitating change and extending a hand to those in need.
Isabella Baboury may be the youngest of those mentioned on our list, but the impact of her work, along with her ambition to truly better our planet and the lives of the people who inhabit it, regardless of their race, gender, religion, or financial status, is reminiscent of someone twice her elder.
At the young age of 28, the reach of her charitable efforts has helped countless lives, both in Toronto and abroad, and her track record is on par with many of the most notable figures active in the philanthropy scene. She sits on the board of several noteworthy charities, including: CANFAR, UforChange, Fashion Heals 4 SickKids, Boost Child & Youth Advocacy, and Kitchener Soup Kitchen, and still finds time to appear at schools and events across the country, speaking on anti-bullying, diversity and inclusivity. Isabella has also hosted and been involved in helping to organize numerous charity events, in partnership with industry and community leaders, from fashion shows to Galas, all in support of charitable causes and organizations across Canada.
Most recently, Isabella has collaborated with Neo's Foundation for their Charity Gala Dinner on November 25th, alongside I Love First Peoples charity, in support of Indigenous communities in Canada. The future is bright for Ms. Baboury, and if her drive and recent work are any indication, we can expect to see her growing to become one of the most prominent philanthropic figures of not just the Yorkville neighbourhood and Canada, but the entire globe.