This text is part of the special Philanthropy section
Year after year, Véronique Cloutier is one of Quebec’s most generous personalities established by Épisode, a consulting firm specializing in philanthropy. The seventh edition of the report is no exception: the host sits in fourth place, alongside big names like P. K. Subban and Céline Dion. Meet.
Since 2016, the Véro & Louis Foundation has been seeking to offer solutions to address the lack of services offered to people 21 and over living with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The original goal was to build five “houses for life” tailored to their specific needs. How has your project evolved?
We reviewed our objectives along the way. When we launched the foundation, we did it with a lot of good intentions, but we quickly realized that it was a gigantic project that requires a lot of time, energy, work and effort, and which includes many pitfalls. When starting the construction of the first house, which is located in Varennes, we decided instead to start by making a good model where we can observe the good moves and the less good moves. We are also considering setting up a research project to study how it works and the impact of our services on residents. There will be trial and error. Our goal is to make it our flagship, our flagship house. We would even like to partner with other foundations that are working on similar projects and help them. Eventually, I think there will be other houses, I hope so very much, but right now all of our time, staffing and energies are focused on that first house.
What have you learned by creating a foundation, giving it your first name and getting involved as a member of the board of directors?
We are constantly in learning mode. We got into this without really knowing the world of philanthropy. Yes, we have often been approached by different causes as godfather and godmother or as donors, but having your own foundation and managing it is a different story. And you learn to stand out, to solicit people, when there are so many good causes that solicit them regularly. In the end, I still think it’s going very well because Louis and I managed to surround ourselves well.
Quebecers often have the opportunity to give by participating in either benefit dinners, benefit shows or sporting challenges. What are your foundation’s favorite fundraising activities?
At this time of year, a garage sale was being organized in Longueuil. I am speaking in the past tense because obviously the sale did not take place in 2020. For the past three years, therefore, we have been inviting personalities to donate personal items to us that we resell to raise funds. We think it’s important to organize events for the general public that raise awareness of our cause. It is also an activity that has ecological value because we recycle objects at the same time. In short, with the garage sale, we are really winners on several fronts, which does not prevent us from organizing fundraising evenings in order to solicit more from the business community. We are also very successful with our online auctions. All this without forgetting the many companies and individuals who organize fundraisers on their side. It is invaluable and invaluable support. Each time, we are touched.
Pay it forward: are these the kind of values you want to pass on to your three children?
Paying forward, sharing, being tolerant, accepting difference, reaching out to others and helping those in need are all important values for us and, of course, this is where we raise our children. We can therefore say that this cause has also become theirs. Every year, they come to volunteer at the garage sale and they help us in the foundation. For example, throughout the month of August, my 15-year-old son Justin would go out on a scooter morning and evening to water the lawn that had just been laid at the house in Varennes. It’s a way to get your hands dirty and get involved.
First scheduled for the summer, the inauguration of the house has been postponed to 2021. Is COVID-19 to blame?
Everything has been complicated this year. There was a bit of a delay in construction and, although the house is now complete, there are delays in hiring staff and in selecting residents. It’s sure that things are a bit messed up now. So we decided to postpone the opening. We do not have a specific date yet, but it will be certain that it will be in the coming months. We just can’t wait for it to be inhabited with screams and laughter.
The pandemic has slowed many things down. What has the health crisis changed within the Véro & Louis Foundation?
It’s very, very hard. First, April is Autism Month, our big month of activities. Unfortunately, this year everything was stopped. From there, it was a chain of bad news. And we are not the only ones, we do not make any more pity than the others: it was hell for all foundations. Certainly it was a blow to have to cancel our annual dinner, because several hundred thousand dollars did not go into our coffers, but we still had a good helping hand when Louis was invited to Everybody talks about it. Many donations have poured in after his appearance on the show. Under the circumstances, we are really very lucky; we are one of the privileged.