Canada’s most generous city

For the ninth straight year, Abbotsford is the most giving community in Canada.

For the ninth straight year, Abbotsford is the most giving community in Canada.

Donors in the Abbotsford/Mission census metropolitan area gave a median donation of $620 to charities in 2010, Statistics Canada reported.

That is well ahead of second-place Calgary and Victoria, which tied at $390.

According to Stats Can, there were 25,650 donors in Abbotsford – tax filers who claimed a donation – and they gave almost $74 million, which was 5.1 per cent more than 2009.

Major Agnes Hailes, who heads the Salvation Army in Abbotsford with her husband Ross, said has seen the giving first hand, as she staffs the Sally Ann kettles.

“I’m always overwhelmed by people’s generosity,” she said. “It’s a wonderful thing to live in this community.”

Wayne Bremner, the executive director of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in B.C. and an Abbotsford resident, said, “It speaks well for the community. We have a large number of people who are big-hearted.”

Running a relief agency that does work around the planet, Bremner sees the generosity of this city, which has a large Mennonite community that supports MCC’s efforts directly.

“A large portion of our supporters live in Abbotsford,” Bremner said.

Every year the MCC festival and auction at Tradex raises more than $500,000 for charity in a single weekend event.

He said MCC operates three thrift shops in Abbotsford that do $2.5 million in sales and have a net income of over $800,000 per year. For all of B.C., MCC thrift shops generate $1.5 million in net proceeds, so the Abbotsford stores represent more than half.

“Of course, it’s not just Mennonites – it’s people in the community. Other faith groups have a similar story,” he said, noting in particular that the Sikh faith shares the same values.

If, as Bremner says, coming from impoverished nations, and being religious are indeed contributors to charity, then Abbotsford is prominent in both demographics. Census data shows 61 per cent of people identify themselves as Christians. Also, 26 per cent of the city’s population was born outside of Canada.

Deb Lowell, the Sally Ann public relations director, said she has lived in many communities across Canada, and has found Abbotsford unique.

“The spirit here is of generosity, for sure. When we present a need, the community responds.”

While she allows that “Christian charity” is likely a factor, there is no doubt in her mind that the entire community shares that ethic.

“It’s a really responsive community – it’s the culture of where we live.”

The stats show that 710,000 British Columbians gave to charities, with an average donation of $370 in 2010. That represents 22 per cent of all tax filers.

Across Canada, claimed donations to charity were $8.3 billion, and donations were up 6.5 per cent from the previous year. There were 5.7 million donors, or 23.4 per cent of all tax filers, and the national median donation was $260.