Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

$100,000 each to 6 charities is how Fontaines spend day

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Kirby and Marie Fontaine (from right) give Dream Factory's Grace Thomson a cheque for $100,016.

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Kirby and Marie Fontaine (from right) give Dream Factory's Grace Thomson a cheque for $100,016.

SANTA Claus isn't the only one making a list and checking it twice.

For the second year in a row, lottery winners Kirby and Marie Fontaine gave to those who need it most.

But this year they doubled their donations.

The Fontaines won a $50-million Lotto Max jackpot in 2009.

Last December, the Fontaines gave $50,000 apiece to numerous charities in Winnipeg. On Monday, they doubled that sum to $100,000 apiece for Siloam Mission, the Christmas Cheer Board, Rossbrook House, Winnipeg Harvest, the Dream Factory and Children's Hospital Foundation. Their donations total $600,000.

Elizabeth Creed, communications director at Siloam Mission, said the Fontaines walked in and presented them with the cheque.

"This donation will make sure a lot of people are warm and have something to eat," said Creed. "First and foremost, we'll use it to keep the frontline services running, and make sure we serve three meals a day,"

Around lunchtime at Winnipeg Harvest, the Fontaines carried out what Kate Brenner, director of development, called the true spirit of giving, which left many of the staff speechless.

"They did the same thing last year. They don't give you any notice," Brenner said. "It could've been anyone walking in."

Every year, Winnipeg Harvest moves about 12 million pounds of food across the province. Brenner said every dollar equals 20 pounds. A donation of $100,000 is about two million pounds of food. "It's pretty busy around here trying to make sure everybody has food for the holidays. Vehicles are running food around to various agencies six days a week, so this is a key time for us," Brenner said. "Hunger and poverty don't take holidays."

At Rossbrook House, the Fontaines surprised staff by walking in during their after-Christmas party for the kids.

"This time of year is huge for us, and we were crossing our fingers," said Phil Chiappetta, co-executive director at Rossbrook House, "They just dropped by, and Kirby wrote a cheque on the pool table. It really eases the pressure and lets us know that we can do everything we wanted for next year."

The Fontaines used to frequent Rossbrook House in the 1980s as kids and Chiappetta commends them for giving back.

"Instead of leaving, they support their community," he said. "They think of this as where they grew up."

Facing a revenue shortfall that figured to be upwards of $75,000, the Cheer Board welcomed the $100,000 donation.

It made director Kai Madsen's day.

"I was sitting at my desk and I got a phone call saying 'Kai, you better come to the front because the Fontaines are coming to visit again,' " Madsen said. "So I went out there right away and had a nice chat with Marie and Kirby. They certainly made my day and the day of all our volunteers."

Madsen said the Cheer Board needs to raise between $800,000 and $900,000 per year. The numbers for 2013 haven't been totalled yet but Madsen said projections had the organization looking at a deficit of up to $75,000.

The Fontaines gave $100,016 to the Dream Factory. The extra $16 is in recognition of honorary spokesman Andrew Ladd of the Winnipeg Jets.

"We were totally amazed and thrilled to be the recipient of such a substantial donation," said executive director Grace Thomson.

jesse.marks@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 31, 2013 0

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