The Hallman Legacy
Entrepreneurship and community building took centre stage as 300 people gathered in Cambridge Nov. 8, 2022, celebrating the Hallman family’s decades of philanthropy across Waterloo Region.
“It’s important to understand the enormity of the impact of the Hallman family,” said John Fast, a family business expert and author of a new book, The Hallman Legacy.
Since 2004, the foundation disbursed almost $90 million. It now gives $15 million a year in grants supporting more than 100 local charities, organizations, and grass-roots efforts strengthening communities. By 2030, it’s expected to be the largest foundation of its kind in Canada.
In Cambridge, recent Hallman Foundation grants include:
- $2.4 million for K-W Urban Wigwam housing project on Cambridge Street
- $400,000 per year for two years for YWCA of Cambridge
- $100,000 per year for two years for the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank
Former Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Elizabeth Witmer is a Hallman Foundation board member.
“It is incredible the number of people in the region we can help,” she said. “It is having a tremendous impact. They continue to do good each and every day.”
The gathering at Drayton Entertainment’s Hamilton Family Theatre in Cambridge was a book launch, fundraiser and house party all rolled into one.
Everyone left with a copy of the book. All proceeds from the event went to support Drayton Entertainment, Conestoga College’s Culinary program, and Waterloo’s Capacity Canada, a charity supporting non-profit leadership and innovation.
The evening ended with a high-energy performance by the cast of Good Ol’ Country Gospel, on stage the rest of week at the theatre. Many in audience joined in, tapping their feet, clapping or singing along with the music.
The Hallman Foundation was created by a $43 million bequest in the will of Lyle Hallman, the founder of Hallman Construction. He died in 2003 and would have turned 100 this year.
Fast says his book tells the little-known story about how Lyle founded the business in Kitchener in 1946, grew it into a dominant apartment and housing building company, and how he wanted to share his success with the community. The book also examines the challenges of running a successful family business and coping with unexpected tragedies, Fast said.
Lyle’s son, Peter, was expected to take over the company, but he died in a 1999 motorcycle crash. Then father Lyle died in a car crash in 2003, leaving his son Jim to take over the business and shape the foundation from scratch.
Jim Hallman told the audience how his grandfather, Anson, had to give up their family home Preston in 1931, when creditors came calling during the depression. The family – including his father, Lyle – moved to Kitchener. Jim said the family stories he heard about persistence and determination to overcome challenges shape his outlook today.
“I learned about our family’s commitment to working hard and to giving back to the community,” he said.
He also looked to all his extended family seated in the front two rows of the theatre, thanking them for their support in bringing the foundation to life and their volunteer work across the region.
Regional chair Karen Redman praised the Hallmans for decades of humble philanthropy and “pragmatic approaches” to supporting their neighbours. Their work epitomizes the region’s long history of “barn-raising and innovation” helping everyone thrive, she said.