Grip and Grin

A longtime donor revealed.

June 13, 2017

We in the media call it the "grip and grin." When a large donation is made by a well-known philanthropist, a press conference is held and the head of the charity and the donor pose together, usually with some kind of prop — like one of those giant novelty cheques.

These days, it's rare to see someone give a large gift to charity and choose to remain anonymous.

But, for nearly two decades, that was the case with the Foote family. Eldon Foote was a University of Alberta grad who was a letterman in track and field. In 1967, he left Canada for Australia, and launched HomCare, a household cleaning business. It turned into an empire, expanding into Hong Kong and Japan.

In 2000, Eldon and his wife, Anne, launched an endowment with the Edmonton Community Foundation. As of the end of 2016, it was worth over $200 million. Thing is, though the Footes often returned to Edmonton to visit family and remain connected to their home — the U of A's Foote Field is named for them — they asked the ECF to keep the donation quiet. There would be no grip and grin.

In 2004, Eldon Foote passed away, but the fund continued.

But, this month, the ECF finally got the go ahead to reveal that it was the Footes who have donated to so many programs over nearly two decades.

"We always knew that it would be announced some day," said Marton Garber-Conrad, CEO of the ECF. "We just didn't know exactly when."

Garber-Conrad said that ECF has been in regular contact with the family over the years, but never prodded them to come forward. 

"Our experience is that donors have their own reasons for doing things the way that they do," he said. "We are happy to accommodate them. We were patient, and it worked out."


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