Canadian seniors give for sustainability

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada – Eighty-nine-year-old John Penner still goes to work three times a week in the business he co-owns with his sons in Calgary. Travelling days are over – he walks with cane and his wife Katie relies on a walker – but “we are trying to keep ourselves busy and also to help other people.”

With the help of Abundance Canada (formerly Mennonite Foundation of Canada), they created the Penner Family Foundation Fund to disburse money to some 17 organizations, one of which is Mennonite World Conference.

A refugee from the Soviet Union who arrived in Canada in 1948 after five years of displacement in Europe, John long ago traded hardship for hard work. “We are blessed with what we have [including two sons who both have two children]…so we started to distribute,” he says.

“We didn’t start out to give big amounts,” says John, “but we found out there is a blessing in giving.” 

It is self-evident to John and Katie that practicing good stewardship means showing generosity. They donate to their local church, Foothills Mennonite, Calgary, and organizations like Mennonite Central Committee and Mennonite World Conference.

“We think if we give funds…we are part of the blessing that flows.”

Fifteen years ago, John and Katie set up a long-term giving plan for MWC.

It was former general secretary Larry Miller who inspired the Penners’ sustained giving to Mennonite World Conference. Churches contribute robustly when MWC holds an Assembly, Miller told John; however, for the five years in between, it is difficult to raise enough funds to cover the expenses for strengthening relationships within the global Mennonite family.

John and Katie decided to help by putting aside $200,000 so MWC could collect interest to provide steady income over the lean years.

“We are delighted to work with anyone to make long-term giving plans to help MWC develop a stable funding base to sustain our work in creating spaces for relationships and mutual support among Anabaptist churches around the world,” says Chief Development Officer Arli Klassen. MWC has policies to guide investment and spending of bequests and endowments to provide a perpetual source of financial support.

“I’m glad that I can give,” says John. The foundation fosters a culture of giving within the family, among Katie, their sons, and someday, he hopes, their grandchildren. “We find it is nice to give together.”

—Mennonite World Conference release