Paul Donaldson.

Paul Donaldson: Building community

Chilliwack's Paul Donaldson, 37, as featured in The Chilliwack Progress Forty Under 40.

A community is like a rugby squad, says Paul Donaldson. It needs a variety of skills, talents and abilities to succeed.

But, ultimately, says the 37-year-old financial advisor and branch manager with Odlum Brown, a team is only as strong as its weakest member.

Rugby can teach us a lot about life. Successful teams are the ones where members support each other, work together, and use their disparate skills to build a stronger unit.

A community can do the same, Donaldson says.

“Having a strong community benefits everybody.”

And for him, that starts with the kids.

Donaldson knows what it’s like to have someone make a difference in your life.

When his parents divorced, it was his grandfather who became the guiding mentor in his life.

Donaldson shared many summers with his grandfather, either travelling or working at jobs with his grandfather’s company.

He gained more than work experience. He gained from the wisdom, support and encouragement offered by this powerful influence in his life.

That influence has stuck with him and serves as a reminder of the importance of a positive presence in a young person’s life.

“I was very fortunate,” he says.

Donaldson understands not everyone has that opportunity, so he does what he can to bridge that gap.

That includes coaching the sport he loves: rugby. He played competitively in high school – not very well at first, he admits. But he remembers watching Semiahmoo Secondary’s championship team and vowing to be on that team one day. A year later he was living in Surrey, and after a successful tryout, he was the team’s fullback.

That experience sparked an appreciation for the sport that continues to this day. “Rugby teaches you a lot of skills that you need in life,” says Donaldson who helps coach at G.W. Graham school.

It also taught him what can be achieved through teamwork.

Today, Donaldson sees that teamwork in action through his involvement with Rotary. At Rotary, he says, “you’re surrounded by a whole lot of like-minded people who all want to give back and facilitate getting things done.”

He chaired last year’s Rotary Book Sale – an event that raises more $60,000 to $70,000 dollars annually.

The sale is a mammoth undertaking that would not be possible without the active participation of  many people, he says, from those who donate their books, to those who volunteer thousands and thousands of hours to help, to those who buy the books during the one-week sale.

“This has to be one of the best community events,” he says. Not only does the money help support projects in Chilliwack, books that can’t be sold are packed up and shipped to needy countries overseas.

“It’s just an amazing thing.”

Rortary touches lives in other ways. A program started by the late Ron Goldfinch, for example, funds breakfast for students at three Chilliwack schools.

“How can you learn if you’re hungry?”

Donaldson also sits on the board of directors for Chilliwack Community Services.

“One of the things [my grandfather] taught me was to always give back to your community, and what better way than to join the board.”

He says it’s an outstanding organization, and one he’s proud to be part of.

But, he confesses with a smile, sometimes he’d be happier on the rugby field than in the boardroom.