Turning adversity into action – young philanthropist couple pays it forward
It isn’t every day that people respond to difficult experiences by stepping forward to make a difference in the lives of others, but that’s exactly what local philanthropists and entrepreneurs Harley Finkelstein and Lindsay Taub did. And they hope their story will inspire others to do the same.
In February 2019, Lindsay was in labour with the couple’s second child. They headed to the Civic campus of The Ottawa Hospital with nervous excitement in anticipation of meeting their new baby. But the birth did not unfold as they had hoped. After a relatively easy labour and delivery with their first in 2016, they expected a similar experience. This time, labour was extremely difficult and tremendously painful.
Lindsay required an emergency c-section. This is not what she and her husband, Harley, had planned for. They were scared at the prospect of surgery and for the well-being of their unborn child. Thankfully, their daughter was delivered safely, and both mom and baby were healthy.
Lindsay and Harley were exhausted, overwhelmed by the unexpected series of events, and desperately needing a chance to decompress and rest — a challenge while sharing a room with three other patients and a constant stream of their nurses, doctors, and visitors.
Discovering a need
As the Chief Operating Officer of Shopify, a Canadian multinational e-commerce company located right here in Ottawa, Harley has dealt with his fair share of stressful situations but even he found this experience pushed his limits. “It was a stressful experience and we just hadn’t anticipated it,” said Harley.
As healthy young parents, Harley and Lindsay have been fortunate to have limited interaction with the hospital. It wasn’t until this difficult experience that Harley realized what it was like to be the loved one of someone experiencing a health complication. The care Lindsay and their baby received was excellent, and he was confident they were in good hands. Yet, he saw a need for a space that would provide a better family experience following the birth of a child. “Lindsay and I experienced a need and saw an opportunity to do something about it,” said Harley.
“Everyone can do something that makes things better for someone else,” says Harley.
“I think this idea of paying it forward is what creates a vibrant, well-run, and prosperous community. And it doesn’t need to start when you’re 60 years old and retired- it should start as early as possible.” – Harley Finkelstein
Building community by paying it forward
Harley and Lindsay both come from humble beginnings but reflect fondly on their respective childhoods and the emphasis that was placed on spending time together. This is what inspired Lindsay to open her own ice cream shop, called Sundae School, and provide a place for families to gather together and enjoy a treat over conversation.
As their respective businesses and careers grew, they felt strongly that along with their good fortune came a responsibility to pay it forward and help others. They have become well-known in the Ottawa area, not only for their entrepreneurial successes, but as influential philanthropists in a thriving community of people who believe in making life in Ottawa better, including contributing to the building of The Finkelstein Chabad Jewish Centre.
“Philanthropy isn’t always about writing a big cheque,” says Harley. “It’s about finding someone who might be going through something difficult and making their life better. You don’t have to change everything but being incremental in donating your time or money can have a very big effect, especially if a lot of other people are inspired to do the same.”
Turning their challenging circumstance into action
And that’s exactly what Harley and Lindsay plan to do. With a donation to The Ottawa Hospital, they hope to inspire others to give back to their community in a way that is meaningful to them.
“Supporting the hospital was very personal having given birth there and having received such excellent medical care, but I also wanted to contribute to other aspects of people’s experiences. It was really important to us,” says Lindsay. “I want our girls to see that not only do we have businesses we care about, but we also care deeply about our community and want to contribute however we can – there are so many ways to do it.”
“We care deeply about our community and want to contribute however we can – there are so many ways to do it.” – Lindsay Taub
A hope to inspire others
Ultimately, Harley and Lindsay feel strongly that they need to lead by example, not only as role models for their own girls, but to motivate others in the community.
“Everyone can do something that makes things better for someone else,” says Harley. “I think this idea of paying it forward is what creates a vibrant, well-run, and prosperous community. And it doesn’t need to start when you’re 60 years old and retired- it should start as early as possible.”