Lighthouse Dedicates Youth Shelter And Gets Some Cash

By John Swartz

James A. Burton has done it again. He donated $1 million to The Lighthouse.. The money will be partially used for operating expenses of the youth shelter Lighthouse operates and partly toward capital costs for a proposed stand alone youth shelter in Orillia.

Along with the announcement of the donation, the shelter building was named the Jeffery Burton Youth Shelter. Jeffery was James’s son, who died from an overdose 12 years ago.

This is the second major donation Burton has made to The Lighthouse, lifting the total to $2.3 million.

James A Burton

“I was very committed when I created our family foundation on what we want to do. Part of that purpose was involving my children and hopefully creating a legacy of giving that will continue on long after I am not here.”

“Then when I discovered this project, and we have several other wonderful projects in other towns, it just fit with where we are going. Particularly how I see it, this isn’t the beginning of what we are doing. We’re now hoping to build a tremendous youth hub  in Orillia,” Burton said.

A presentation was made to Orillia council February 12 at which Glenn Wagner revealed The Lighthouse board had been discussing building a stand-alone youth shelter for a number of years and were just about done talking. He specifically mentioned the programming in a new shelter would include access to involvement in arts.

Burton grew up in Orillia on Matchedash Street where Matchedash Lofts now stands and his memory influences why he wants to help and how he’d like his help to be used.

“This is my home. I grew up here, I dreamed here. From my window I looked up at the clock tower one street up from me and had dreams at night of what I would do when I was growing up. I have very clear passions about Orillia.”

“I walked up the street every day to the Y with Skid Watson, and I went to Central School and then walked my way up to ODCVI for high school.”

 “I met a person who was very influential in my life, my music teacher (Harmon Hoffmann?), who challenged that we could do anything we wanted and dream and play music around the world and all that happened in Orillia.”

“I never became a professional musician, but he taught us that music was a window to a great big world out there, and that’s what I would love to see in Orillia, is keep affirming that because I had the privilege to do that,” Burton said.

The youth shelter is located at the Lighthouse’s Queen Street facility.

LInda Goodall

“We have a separate area, separate staff, separate supervisor that is unique for youth; that is the operation part. Then we have the adults, so it’s two separate (things) in the same building working together,” said Linda Goodall, executive director of The Lighthouse.

“We’re very limited here. We created a youth shelter because there was an absolute need in our community. Do we want to have it here, on-site, forever? No. We want to be able to create this hub to be able to make a more safe place where youth can go forward even better.”

Burton’s donation will be used partially for operating expenses and partially toward capital for a youth wing.

“What we talked about at council a couple weeks ago is what Jim was talking about, a youth hub division, having youth supportive housing, a community space where they can learn and grow. We were asking for support in principal from council, which we received unanimously.”

Burton built his wealth with the insurance brokerage PPI Financial in Calgary and grew it into a Canada-wide company. In 2018 he sold it to Industrial Alliance Insurance and Financial Services Inc. of Quebec City and set up the James A Burton & Family Foundation.

In March 2021 Burton donated $1 million to the capital campaign, which left it still short $500,000 of the $14.5 million goal, so he also offered to match 3 to 1 any remaining donations to finish off the campaign. He ended up writing another cheque for $300,000.

Burton is sincere about helping youth; his own youthful dreams became reality, but not so for his son, who was recovering from addiction, but as Burton said a ’slip’ brought that to an end. Burton would like to be an agent of change for others before they get to the stage in life his son reached.

“Let’s deal with the issue of homelessness as an alternative. I know firsthand within my family, if you are out in the streets, the easiest to do is turn around and someone’s is going to give you a drug. That’s not the solution. In fact, you’ll die. As an alternative if we can start a pathway with people in a home that gives them a step by step process to be able to move forward and create their own purpose.”

It’s not just a bed for the night Lighthouse offers. They also have a comprehensive support system including access to counselling, health care, educational programs, and job training.

At the moment, a new youth shelter is still only on paper, but Burton’s donation will help move things along.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Main: James A Burton and Linda Goodall at The Lighthouse in Orillia.


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