Lottery winners give back to community
- EFN Staff | January 12, 2015
When the Worme family got lucky and won over $14 million dollars in the lottery, women and children across Saskatchewan also hit the jackpot. The Amiskusees Semaganis-Worme Family Foundation was recently introduced to the community at their first official donation event as spokesperson Rheana Worme and her mom Helen and brother Donovan were on stage at the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company to present them a donation of $20,000.
“We have been donating to groups and individuals for over a year now but they have been smaller donations,” said Rheana. “But this is our first major donation of this kind, a partnership so to speak and we hope it goes on into the future. The reason we have chosen SNTC to donate to is their commitment to the community and their mandate to not only incorporate the youth in the community but to reach outside of Saskatoon and across Saskatchewan.”
After winning the lottery over a year ago, the family took their time planning what they wanted to do with their windfall. “The first priority was to protect our children. But also we wanted to create a really nice learning environment for them. We both knew we wanted to give back to the community and we wanted a way to structure it,” said Helen Semaganis of the challenge facing herself her husband Don, both prominent lawyers in Saskatoon. “We decided to build a foundation and who we would bring in to help organize it and then to bring the children in to create the board so they can learn how to manage and keep the family together.” The foundation board includes Tara Worme, who works for the federal government in Ottawa; Tanis Worme, an artist who works in the family law firm; Rheana Worme who attends Edwards School of Business, Donovan Worme, a U of S Arts and Sciences student and the youngest sibling, Elias, who is 13. The parents sit as nonvoting co-chairs.
The opportunity to run the foundation means everything to Rheana. “My dad has always been a donor and involved in the community and contributes financially to all kinds of sports teams and individuals. Now he can hand it to his children, to us, in order that we can learn to give back to the community and see the benefit.” According to Rheana the mandate of the foundation is to empower the human spirit with a focus on women and youth. They are the most vulnerable and the people that need the most protection and help. “We are working on a budget for what we want to invest each year as well we are creating criteria for applications. We just finished our first year where we gave out about $240,000.”
The money comes in handy for the Theatre Company. “Having the Amiskusees Semaganis-Worme Family Foundation donation means a lot to our season and allows us to pay competitive wages to our performers. It also ups our status and capacity as a professional theatre company,” said Alan Long, general manager of SNTC. “We have great support from sponsors in the community but this is the first foundation to support us. It is important to find these private donors. It is a big part of our sustainability.”
The money hasn’t changed the family and the Foundation has helped the family become even closer. “We do love the foundation work,” said Helen. “We come together once a month as family and we are getting a lot better at the business of it. Our youngest is 13 and in the last year it has been really delightful to see him grow. He can now pay attention the entire time of a meeting and make motions. He is learning little things about business so it is good for him. Otherwise, we tried to keep our personal lives the same way. We still go to work in the morning and I still drive my son to school. Life continues to go on.”
In the mean time, the Foundation is developing and Rheana is having the time of her life and she is very appreciative of her families luck. “It is very exciting. I’m very excited to take this up. It is great to get handwritten letters telling us about activities that people could do because of our donation and we have had all kinds of positive feedback. It keeps us committed.”
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