A Million Dollar Gift That Took 50 Years

January 7, 2012; Source: Winnipeg Free Press | Last week Laurie Johnston, a retired pharmacist, made two gifts, of $500,000 each, to two health facilities in Winnipeg. But the gift has been in the works for nearly fifty years, since Johnston was in his final year of pharmacy school, stretched financially, and contemplating taking a year off. He recalls that a friend of the family called him to come over, and then handed him $200 in an envelope. “That was a huge amount of money back then,” said Johnston. “She told me to use it for my schooling and pay it back for somebody else in the future.”

But even before that Johnston knew about giving, because his mother regularly fed the men riding the rails in pursuit of a job. “They’d knock on the door, sometimes two or three times a day, and she’d make them a big meal of soup and bread and pack them a lunch. She said to me, ‘These men have nothing, no roof over their head, no food, so everybody should help them.’ That made quite an impression on me.”

Johnston started investing into a special legacy fund soon after he left the university, and he never withdrew any of the proceeds for himself. His policy was never to buy what he wanted but just what he needed. Johnston was not a rich man in spending money, perhaps, but he stands as testimony to the potential of each individual to contribute.—Ruth McCambridge