The Charis Foundation was established by Bob and Leslie Bernardo as a means of responding to the spiritual, physical, emotional and mental needs of people around the world. Incorporated as a non-profit charity on January 25, 1995, The Charis Foundation provides funds for worthy organizations, people and projects. It also provides a means for its board members to be more actively involved in various missions and related outreach efforts. The initial Board Meeting was held on November 29, 1995 at the Bernardo family cottage in Muskoka, ON.
Robert J. (Bob) and Leslie Bernardo
The Charis logo features a dove carrying an olive branch, symbolizing the story of the Great Flood in the book of Genesis. As the waters began to subside, Noah sent out a dove to see if it could find a place to land. On its second flight the dove returned with an olive branch, demonstrating that the waters had finally receded from the earth. In the same way that the dove brought hope to Noah and his family, The Charis Foundation seeks to offer hope for the needy and oppressed and provide necessary resources to those who are fulfilling God's plan for His people.
The word "charis" is a Greek word with three significant meanings:
1. A practical application of goodwill
2. A gracious deed or gift
3. A benefaction
All three apply to the fundamental aims of the Foundation, as it seeks to bestow goodwill, gracious gifts and benefactions to needy groups and individuals around the world.
Challenge and Change
The Charis Foundation's initial board was comprised of Bob and Leslie Bernardo along with their two children, Geoff and Karen.
In 2005, Bob and Leslie were devastated by the loss of both children. From unrelated causes, Karen and Geoff passed away within six weeks of each other. These were dark days for Bob and Leslie, but they were never without hope or the comforting presence of God who loved and sustained them even in the face of incomprehensible loss.
It was Bob and Leslie's desire that the work of the foundation continue in perpetuity. Later that same year, they invited Peter Roebbelen to join the Board of The Charis Foundation. Peter's role as Pastor at Chartwell Baptist Church brought him into close contact with the Bernardo family, particularly through the deaths of Geoff and Karen.
Glynis MacGibbon joined the Charis team in 2006 as Executive Assistant to Bob and was invited to join the Board in 2008.
In 2010, John Tabet joined the Board as the Foundation's fifth director. Bob and John worked together over the years on several different boards and mission organizations.
Sadly, Bob was diagnosed with stage-four cancer in November, 2010. His death, just one month later, was a shock to many.
Prior to his diagnosis, Bob began discussing long term succession plans with Peter and the other directors. When the advanced state of Bob's cancer was determined, he invited Peter to take on the role of President. Peter was installed as the Foundation's second President in January, 2011.
Since its beginning, The Charis Foundation had maintained an office at 69 Yonge St in Toronto, ON. This was an ideal base of operations for Bob who spent most of his working career on Bay Street. After Bob's passing, The Charis Foundation office was relocated to Oakville which facilitates better access for the present directors.
In the spring of 2012, The Charis Foundation set up their new office at 1464 Cornwall Road, Unit 3, Oakville, ON, L6J 7W5.
Early in 2014, Leslie was diagnosed with end-stage cancer. Her death on June 18, 2014, marks the end of an era for us. All our founders are gone. We continue in our commitment to pursue the goals and objectives of the Bernardo family. We are extremely grateful for their generosity and careful planning that allows The Charis Foundation to carry on in perpetuity for the express purpose of participating in the coming of God's Kingdom through promoting Christian ministry and relieving human suffering.