2017 – John Volken

John Volken immigrated to Canada from Germany at the age of 18.  According to him, he had less than $100 in his pocket. He started out working on farms and construction sites and as a dishwasher. Eventually, he opened a secondhand furniture store, which grew quickly and called it The United Furniture Warehouse, making him very wealthy.

Most wealthy people choose to donate money to sporting activities, hospitals, or arts and culture.  John decided to help drug and alcohol addicts. After selling his company in 2004, he sank approximately $100 million into the John Volken Foundation, which funds an addiction-treatment centre in Surrey called Welcome Home.

He visited recovery centres in Europe and the United States to learn more about this area. A large factor for success was the time involved to treat addiction, which is measured in years not months.  While people can overcome the physical addiction of drugs or alcohol in three or four weeks, up to five years is required to turn their life around.

His idea was to improve people’s lives and set them up for success in life as a whole person, rather than fix a small part of them.   It’s his dedication to this idea that follows in Gandhi’s footsteps to help those marginalized and care for them.

There are currently 3 John Volken Academies, in Vancouver, Phoenix, and Seattle. These facilities not only offer one of the most effective treatment programs, but also one of the most affordable. Other than a relatively small one-time admittance fee, the entire costs of the program, as well as all members’ basic living costs while in the program, are paid for by John’s Foundation.
John also continued to look for other ways to help those in need. In particular he traveled to Africa to determine how he could help that continent’s destitute children. After seeing firsthand the terrible plight of so many orphans, John returned home and formed Lift the Children, a registered charitable organization funded extensively by his Foundation. Lift the Children helps the poorest of the poor in Africa in their struggle not only to survive, but also to become self-sufficient.

To those who know John, it is no surprise that he continues to work 60-hour plus weeks, maintaining the same hands-on management style that drove his business success. He is joined and very much supported in these efforts by his wife, Chawna, who is a constant source of strength in his efforts to serve the disadvantaged, often traveling with him on grueling missions to Africa.


More information on John and his foundation is available here: