Former Bridgewater teacher gives back with $200,000 donation
It’s safe to say that Stephen Sander will never forget what the people of Bridgewater did for him all those years ago.
And to show his appreciation, he returned the favour with a matching kindness: he made a $200,000 private donation to the Bridgewater Elementary School’s playground and community park.
The donation had previously been announced last year, but Wednesday, Sept. 19 featured a dedication ceremony to Stephen’s efforts.
Due to recent health issues, Stephen was unable to attend the ceremony, but several members of his family, including his daughter Karen Sander, were on hand.
In 1960, Bridgewater High School hired and sponsored Stephen as a physical education teacher.
And despite some challenges, the school and community welcomed young Stephen — who was born in India — with open arms.
Speaking at Bridgewater Elementary, Karen highlighted how kindness can resonate through generations.
“The most important thank you is for your grandparents and your great grandparents and your parents for something they did so long ago for my father,” she said to a gym full of students.
“They welcomed him, they encouraged him and made him feel valued and special.”
But Stephen’s time in Nova Scotia was only the beginning of his Canadian journey.
Following his time in Bridgewater, he moved out West and
started a real estate company, Hollyburn Properties Limited, in 1972
Today, the company has rental housing in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa and has 86 rental properties nationwide.
Stephen, who is now in his 80s, had prepared a video message for the school and said he had not forgotten his roots despite his success.
“It was a long time ago, but I have never forgotten,” he said.
“I love you people of Bridgewater.”
The town’s welcoming spirit, explained Karen, is something that has made her family’s life in Canada possible.
“It’s those gifts that my family will never, ever forget.”
David Mitchell, the mayor for the Town of Bridgewater, was also present to reveal a plaque next to the playground highlighting Stephen’s story.
Mitchell said he was proud of the town and that Stephen’s experience is emblematic of the people of Bridgewater.
“This is who we are as a town. It’s not what we have and what we don’t have — it’s how we act with each other,” he said.
Like Stephen and Karen,
Bridgewater Mayor David Mitchell and Karen Sander unveil a plaque commemorating her father, Stephen, and his $200,000 private donation to the Bridgewater Elementary School’s playground and community park.