According to Brian North, he’s “one of the luckiest people in the world.” His ‘attitude of gratitude’ has earned him a diverse group of friends and a firm place in a community he gives back to generously.
Brian’s charity roster is impressive: Past President of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, currently on the Home Show committee; member of the Customer Advisory Committee for PowerStream; member of the Advisory Group for York Small Business Enterprise Centre; Run For Southlake committee member and sponsor; Big Brother Big Sister Bowl participant; Big Brother Big Sister sponsor; Yellow Brick House sponsor; Women’s Centre sponsor; sponsor for the Aurora Mayor’s Golf Tournament; sponsor for the Aurora Heritage Golf Tournament; participant and sponsor for Relay For Life, and volunteer and sign sponsor for many Chamber events. In addition, he has sat on a variety of committees for his church, and volunteers to support events there as well.
In fact, it was through volunteering that Brian met his wife of twenty-seven years, Lori. Brian volunteered for Boy Scouts of Canada and spent five years in Humber Seneca district scouting, and three years leading in Aurora. He was on a training course for cub leaders when he met Lori, an Aurora native. Brian and Lori have been Aurora residents for the past twenty-six years and have a son, Philip, and a daughter, Jennifer.
A partner in Ellis Studios Ltd. since 1996 and sole owner since 2007, Brian uses company resources to support community endeavours. Many of the signs posted for, and at, the charity events Brian is involved in were created and printed at Ellis Studios Ltd. In addition, the committee for Relay For Life meets once a month in the Ellis Studios boardroom, and both Brian and his son have helped with their Santa Clause Parade float. Though his twenty-two employees may complain from time to time about the additional work all this charity support generates, Brian knows that giving back is as good for them as it is for him.
Three years ago Brian made the decision to hire a young man through York Regional School Board Special Education Services Program, which assists autistic kids. “It’s good for the staff – they’re the ones I give the credit to. They had to learn to be patient with Andrew. He’s been with the company for three years now. He’s a good kid. It’s been a humbling experience for all of us at Ellis Studios.”
Born in Toronto, Brian and his family moved to Minesing in 1970. He spent his teenage years there, and lived in Toronto and King City prior to moving to Aurora. Losing his mother to cancer in January of 2006, just three months after she was diagnosed, has made Relay for Life a very poignant experience for Brian. “There’s nothing more upsetting than losing your mom. Relay For Life was very emotional. I walked through the night wondering how other people deal with it. The ambiance of doing it at night, the luminaries, and knowing the people walking with you are going through the same kind of loss… it was a very moving experience.”
Another memorable experience for Brian was winning the Business Person of the Year award in 2008. “It was a most humbling experience, knowing that it was your peers who nominated you.”
Brian chooses to see his experiences through the lens of optimism and gratitude. He looks at the ways in which his charity work has enriched his life, providing skills and experiences that he would not otherwise have. “The Chamber of Commerce helps with personal growth. You become comfortable speaking to large groups of people. And I got to know many great people in town from a business and personal perspective.”
How Brian fits a family, a thriving business, community involvement and his busy charity agenda into his life is nothing short of amazing, but for Brian, giving back is its own reward. “Why do I volunteer? It’s something I’ve always done. I guess it’s the community feeling; being part of something – feeling as if you are contributing. I get more out of it than I give. I’m lucky with my family, friends, the community I live in, my Chamber of Commerce experiences. I feel lucky to be able to do it.”
For Brian, the plans for the future look very much like the past – a wealth of community experiences that result in good feelings all around. “I’ll continue on the committee for The Run for Southlake. This weekend I’m at the Aurora Home Show (April 2011), judging and working at the Southlake booth. And when I retire I want to volunteer at the hospital, just making people feel good. They were amazing when my mother was dying; they helped my mom feel better; they helped my family to feel better. That’s what I want to do.”
If luck is in the eye of the beholder, Brian North is a very lucky man. However, he’s not half as lucky as we, in York Region, who benefit from all the ways in which he gives back.
* Bio written by Heather Anne Lambert, firstname.lastname@example.org