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$500 million gift to a community foundation by Miriam Bergen
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$500 million gift to a community foundation by Miriam Bergen

A Winnipeg, Manitoba business owner and quiet philanthropist has given the largest gift ever made to a Canadian charity by an individual.

The Winnipeg Foundation has announced an extraordinary unrestricted gift from the late Miriam Bergen, owner and president of Appleton Holdings Ltd. – a privately held company that carries on business as Edison Properties. The gift to the community, which includes the shares of Appleton, is believed to have a value of approximately $500 million.

“It is with immense gratitude I am here today to announce a gift that will be transformational for our community,” said Winnipeg Foundation Board Chair Tom Bryk earlier today. “Miriam Bergen, President of Appleton Holdings, has left this unprecedented gift to The Winnipeg Foundation, and we are honored by the trust she has placed in us. We anticipate when the gift is fully realized, it will provide significant additional resources into the community annually.”

“Here is another example of how the people of Manitoba are the most generous in Canada. Miriam Bergen and her family have left an incredible legacy that will have a positive impact for generations to come and we thank them, from the bottom of our hearts.” he said.

“Giving to community organizations was a big part of how Miriam showed she cared about people,” shared Doris Gietz, Miriam Bergen’s cousin. “She had a love of humanity that came from her parents, my aunt and uncle. Their philanthropic values grew from the gratitude they felt when they immigrated to Canada.”

“Most of her giving was anonymous because it was the act of giving, not the recognition, that inspired her. However, I feel it is important for the community to know about this gift because it will make such a difference. It is the culmination of her quiet, lifelong generosity and will be the Bergen’s legacy,” she said.

“Miriam Bergen will be remembered as a visionary for our community. Her incredibly generous gift will transform The Winnipeg Foundation’s ability to support community,” said Foundation Chief Executive Officer Sky Bridges, at the announcement. “We look forward with enthusiasm, commitment, and hope for Winnipeg’s future, as we continue working to help ensure ‘a Winnipeg where community life flourishes for all.’ This stunning support from Miriam Bergen, and her love for our city and all who live here, will help us address Winnipeg’s most pressing challenges today, and in the future.”

Miriam Bergen was the President of Appleton Holdings Ltd., formerly Marlborough Developments, founded by her late parents, Martin and Ruth Bergen. She was a philanthropic leader in Winnipeg like her parents before her, supporting many organizations not only as a known donor but most often making private contributions to support a wide variety of local organizations that benefit the community.

The Winnipeg Foundation is Canada’s first community foundation, created in 1921 by businessperson William Forbes Alloway and his wife Elizabeth Alloway. In 2021, The Winnipeg Foundation distributed $84.9 million to approx. 1,100 charitable organizations in the city. Miriam’s gift will be part of our ‘unrestricted’ community fund. This fund gives The Foundation the flexibility to respond to the most pressing community needs.

In the past 100 years, The Winnipeg Foundation has granted more than $780 million back to community For Good. As a public foundation based on the endowment model, gifts of all sizes are pooled and invested together and a portion of the earnings are granted back to the community, providing an ongoing stream of community support.

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