When Barbara Crook was fifteen years old, she started volunteering at a local pool on the West Island of Montreal, teaching swimming lessons to disabled children in her neighbourhood. What started as occasional volunteer work during high school has evolved into full-time philanthropy and community activism in the Ottawa region, where she and her husband have donated millions to local causes.
“I didn’t have a lot of money growing up,” says Crook, “but I was always raised to believe you have to do things for other people in whatever capacity you can.”
Crook says “the blockbuster moment” of her philanthropic career came in March 2008, when her husband’s family, the Greenbergs, pledged $11 million to local cancer causes. The Queensway Carleton Hospital received $9 million of the donation to expand services at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Centre, with the rest donated to research at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.
They have also donated $2.5 million to the Great Canadian Theatre Company – a donation that really hit home for Crook, given her prior career as a theatre critic and entertainment editor.
Before turning to full-time philanthropy, Crook spent years working in the newspaper industry. After graduating from Western’s journalism program in 1983, she was hired by the Ottawa Citizen. Between 1985 and 1990 she served as the paper’s theatre critic, a position she also held from 1993 to 1996 at the Vancouver Sun. She has worked as an entertainment editor and business writer for both papers and has taught arts journalism at Carleton University.
“The skills that you learn in journalism programs can be applied in so many other areas,” says Crook. “The skills that you learn, in terms of gathering information, putting it together, presenting it in a compelling way, understanding the power of a good lead – all of those things really, really play into what I do now.”
Crook and her husband will continue to put their efforts into the Danbe Foundation, their charitable foundation, and give whatever they can to local healthcare, arts and culture, and Jewish causes. Crook says her work with the foundation is taking up more and more of her time, because “Once you give $11 million to something,” she says, “everybody’s knocking at your door.”
Read the complete story: Faculty of Information and Media Studies Journalism Alumni Gallery of Distinction
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