Isaac's Way Children in the Arts Fund

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Tina and Jason LeJeune, owners of Isaac’s Way Restaurant and The Abbey Café and Gallery, are well known in the Fredericton community as avid philanthropists and keen supporters of opportunities for children in the arts. Often gathering spots for Frederictonians from all walks of life, their restaurants focus on supporting New Brunswick producers and serving fresh, high-quality, local food to their many customers. Isaac’s Way is community-oriented, showcasing a silent art auction throughout the year to raise funds for underprivileged children to attend art, dance, theatre, and music lessons. In February of 2017, Tina and Jason established the Isaac’s Way Children in the Arts Fund, a Field of Interest Fund at the Fredericton Community Foundation that works to provide opportunities for youth to pursue artistic endeavors. 

A Field of Interest Fund works so that donors are able to identify an area of interest to which they would like to target their support. Examples of these areas of interest include the arts, heritage, environment, health, seniors, children, recreation, relief of poverty, or education. With the establishment of this type of fund, the donor makes a contribution and identifies the area of interest but empowers the Foundation’s Board of Directors to select the specific worthwhile projects to support. Through a minimum donation of $10,000, donors may establish Field of Interest Funds. “We thought that it was a great idea to do the Field of Interest Fund for kids in the arts because it’s an ongoing fund that continues to grow and give back to the community,” explained Tina. “[The process] was easy, Tim Fox made it seamless. Getting reports back [from the Foundation] about your fund is really nice.”

THE ISAAC'S WAY CHILDREN IN THE ARTS FUND

For the LeJeunes, designating Children in the Arts as their area of interest was an easy choice. They had been actively volunteering and subsidizing different artistic opportunities for underprivileged kids for many years prior to establishing their fund. “At the time, our children were in elementary school and kids were a big part of our lives,” said Tina, explaining how they originally became involved in this type of philanthropy. “We could see in the school system that there wasn’t enough theatre and music, dance, and there certainly wasn’t enough art being taught. […] Helping kids, you’re planting the seeds for tomorrow. Being able to build them up, give them confidence, give them something to work towards – that’s important.”

Since they began in 2007, the art auctions at Isaac’s Way have raised over $175,000 for children in the arts. An auction lasts for approximately four months with three taking place per year, each raising $8,000 - $10,000 and designated for a specific area. This could include dance lessons, art lessons, music programs, and more. Tina described how they are able to fill the 70 spaces at Isaac’s Way with incredible artwork every four months: “It started off just being staff contributing at the very beginning. Then, we started asking customers who we knew were creative and it grew. [Now], we have probably 170 artists who participate on and off. We can’t squeeze everyone into every auction, but we’re happy when they want to continue.” Last year, one entire auction was solely dedicated to the Isaac’s Way Children in the Arts Fund; however, any unused funds from previous art auctions are planned to also be included into the fund alongside the initial donation.

Both Tina and Jason have felt tremendous support and fulfillment in the philanthropic work that they have contributed to the Fredericton Community. “At this restaurant, we see a lot of faces, a lot of people, a lot of connections. We see when there’s a need. We’re in this business to be part of the community and to help where we can,” stated Tina. The successful results of their art auctions prove to be extremely rewarding. “I think that being able to give kids that opportunity just makes the whole art auction and the whole giving back worthwhile. It just fills our hearts right up.”

Aside from the silent art auctions that they have incorporated at Isaac’s Way, the LeJeunes have also contributed countless hours to other philanthropic activities in the Fredericton community. For over a decade, they have generously supplied meals for individuals at the Wilmot United Church Drop-In Centre. Recently, Jason has been involved in the city’s Housing First initiatives, working to provide affordable housing opportunities for those experiencing homelessness in our community. They have funded art opportunities for youth at a variety of local organizations, including the Fredericton Boys and Girls Club; Theatre New Brunswick; Calithumpians, Bonnie Kilburn; the Art Hatchery; Xtreme Dance; Big Brothers Big Sisters; Long and McQuade; Estey Art Initiative Inc.; band programs at local schools; and more.

 

CONTRIBUTE

- If you are interested in nominating a child in need who could benefit from a bursary in the arts, Isaac’s Way has funds available. Please contact Tina at isaacs@nbnet.nb.ca to inquire.

- If you would like to contribute to the Isaac’s Way Children in the Arts Fund, visit the following link on the Fredericton Community Foundation website: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/fredericton-community-foundation-inc/

Lauren Sieben