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Walking softly, leaving a big imprint

Penny Nardelli is accustomed to walking gently in the world, quietly leaving a big imprint in people’s lives through thoughtful and deliberate deeds.
When her friend, the late businesswoman and philanthropist, Virginia Greene asked her to sit on the fledgling Streetohome Board in 2008, she was hesitant to take on such a prominent role.

What won her over was Virginia’s enthusiasm, “She could really light a fire under people,” says Penny, who eventually left the Board in 2010. “She was always trying to get me involved in the many worthwhile projects she championed, and I always declined, but Streetohome really struck a chord with me. I thought she was on the right track – bringing the private and public sectors and government to the table – to help solve the issue of homelessness. I thought it was a different approach and I really wanted to be involved.”

One of the best lessons Virginia – a mentor as well as a friend – taught Penny was to trust her instincts. “If something feels right and you’ve done your research, then just risk it. Go ahead and give your time or money to a project, because the upside is greater than the downside. If it goes well, you’ve helped someone, if it doesn’t go well then you’ve learned something.”

It’s a decision she’s never regretted.

“It’s been an absolute privilege to have been part of the inaugural Streetohome board, and I know we’ve done a good job,” says Penny. “The numbers of homeless who have been housed speaks for itself.” Since 2008, Streetohome has provided more than 1,100 units of supportive housing in Vancouver, directly helping more than 1,700 vulnerable people.

Penny’s decision to become involved with Streetohome was also based on the shared values of both foundations. Both believe in leveraging funding from a variety of sources to bring a project to fruition, they believe in thinking out of the box to solve problems, and they’re passionate about helping society’s most vulnerable.

“Housing is a basic human need, and once you have that, it can be transformational” says Penny. “You can move forward and start to build a better life.”

The Carraresi Foundation’s initial legacy to help the homeless in Vancouver was a major gift to Taylor Manor – a 56 bed supported housing facility for homeless people living with mental illness and addictions. More recently, Carraresi Foundation made a significant contribution to 41 East Hastings – a mixed-income building in the Downtown eastside that will provide 52 supportive housing units for couples who are at risk for homelessness. The Carraresi Foundation was the first donor to recognize the value of this development long before it was finalized. In fact, helping to test promising ideas and providing solid evidence for moving forward is something the organization embraces.  Taylor Manor will officially open this winter, and 41 East Hastings will open in 2016.

For as long as Penny can remember she’s felt an obligation to give back to society. “It’s a reflection on all of us when we have a lot of homelessness in our communities. We all have a responsibility to give back and try and help however we can.”

Augusto Carraresi, the founder of the Carraresi Foundation, believed that a benefactor, ultimately becomes the beneficiary of a good deed. “He instinctively knew that philanthropy benefits both the benefactor and the beneficiary,” says Penny.

“By giving to others, he was not only improving the lives of those who are disadvantaged, but his own and that of the community.”