Gary Zed dedicates his professional life to providing high-level strategic advice and counsel as EY’s tax market leader for Canada. He dedicates his personal life to making his community a better place.
Learning to give back has been a lifelong journey for Gary. When he was a child, he would watch his grandparents – grocers and landlords who immigrated to Canada from Lebanon – as they extended a helping hand to those around them.
“My grandparents would help with free rent or free groceries if there was someone in need,” he recalls. “They even went so far as to lend food from their store to help other people start their own competing stores.”
Their example of generosity was not lost on Gary, and he has gone on to become one of Ottawa’s most noted philanthropists, donating time and money to charities as diverse as the LIFT Foundation, the Boys and Girls Club, The Ottawa Hospital and the NAC, among others. “Giving back is part of my DNA,” he laughs. “I didn’t do anything unique, I just got involved.” Mayor Jim Watson honoured him as a 2015 inductee of the Order of Ottawa.
Gary’s commitment to philanthropy took on a special emphasis when he noticed that his children were paying attention to what he was doing, and knew that his actions would inform their own approach to the world around them.
“I believe that raising fit kids is not just about helping them be educationally fit, or physically fit or financially fit – it’s also about being philanthropically fit,” he explains. “The more we expose kids to this, the more it makes them better people.”
It makes them better employees too, as far as Gary is concerned. “If someone doesn’t have a sense of community purpose, they’re missing their edge,” he says. “It’s a mandate in our office to become involved.”
He cites the example of EY’s Seven Days of Giving program, in which staff identify seven charities in need and come together to support those charities for the holidays. Last year, EY staff donations went out to ACCESO International, the Boys and Girls Club, CHEO, Operation Come Home, the Ottawa Food Bank, the Ottawa Mission and St. Joe’s Women’s Centre. It’s an initiative that clearly makes Gary proud.
“Ottawa is just the right size where you can make a big, impactful difference,” he says. “I’ve learned from the best in the city about how giving back is the imperative, and now my job is to champion change for the next generation.”