Kindness is a Choice

From an orphan in foster care to a faithful donor, Jim Furlong has learned the value of giving back.

Jim Furlong knows what it’s like to grow up with very little.

As an orphan, Jim stayed in foster care. He often got in trouble at school, and struggled to find his place in the world.

When he was 12, Jim had to make a choice. He could either provide labour on a farm, or go to reform school.

He chose the farm.

“It was a pretty easy choice,” said Jim. “Reform school was like going to jail – I knew other kids who had gone there, and I didn’t like what I heard.”

While working on the farm, Jim continued to go to school, but it wasn’t a welcoming experience for him. The teacher, who knew Jim came from the foster care system, called him by the farmer’s name, not his own – as in, “Stephenson Boy.”

“You kind of felt like a second-class citizen, like you didn’t belong.”

As a teenager, he finally claimed his rightful name.

He then started developing the leadership skills that would help him flourish as an adult, through the mentorship and support he received from his high school teachers and coaches.

“That’s why I played team sports,” said Jim. “I was looking for a place to belong. It was a community for me.”

These foundational experiences stayed with Jim. He served in the military before becoming a teacher, finishing his career as principal of Elmira District Secondary School.

Jim found strength in community, in leadership, and in giving back.

He has also focused on giving back financially, including to House of Friendship.

“When I give, I think about one thing – will this make a difference? That’s my main criteria. I want to make sure it will have an impact.”

Jim can look back at his life and see the many people who stepped in to help him as he grew up, and knows that their impact on his life is now impacting others.

“Kindness is not an act that you do just once; it’s a lifestyle. I learned that growing up. If you have an opportunity to be kind to others, you just do it.”

Posted on: August 5th, 2022

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