Nick Lees: Edmonton Chamber of Commerce head an unabashed Alberta advocate

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“The fund is a kind of torch-passing family tradition idea about building and strengthening our community,” says Riopel. “I will decide how much of my estate I want to go to the fund and my grandchildren will decide which projects they will support.

“At present, I give them a small amount of money at Christmas and they decide which causes they will help, such as the homeless, animal shelters or perhaps an orphaned elephant.”

Riopel, a recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal and honoured as a Global TV Woman of Vision, traces her high-energy personality back to her Archbishop MacDonald High School days.

“I started work in Grade 9, serving as a night-and-weekend switchboard operator for a car dealership all through high school,” she says. “I made enough money to backpack through Europe on graduating.”

Janet Riopel delighted with her effort after hiking on Sicily's Mount Etna, the highest volcano in Europe and one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
Janet Riopel delighted with her effort after hiking on Sicily’s Mount Etna, the highest volcano in Europe and one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Supplied

Aged 19, Riopel married, had two children in her early twenties and went to post-secondary school for eight years on realizing opportunities were otherwise limited.

“I progressed gradually through increasingly responsible positions in the land development business,” she says. “ I worked full time during the day, went home to care for two babies and then got them settled before going off to university at night.”

Full days are still a familiar path today as she helps guide Edmonton businesses through both COVID-19 and the toughest economy Edmonton has ever experienced.

Some thoughts of Riopel, whose many positions include serving on the boards of NAIT, Compassion House and the Urban Development Institute.

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