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Meet Our Affiliates: The John Volken Academy

March 3rd, 2017

The name John Volken brings to mind, for many Canadians, the company United Furniture Warehouse, a mattress and furniture store that flourished from humble beginnings to over 150 retail stores and annual sales totaling over $200,000,000 due to John’s tireless commitment and hard work.

Volken, who immigrated to Canada in 1960 from the small German city of Potsdam, always kept the memory of the challenges that he encountered in early life front of mind. Some of these early challenges included a brief stint in an orphanage as a small child when his mother was struggling to support the family in the wake of World War II and his father’s death. It was for this reason that Volken began, after a long career in the private sector, his examination of how he might be able to assist in a particular sphere of social need in 1998. His meetings with those seeking to meet various social needs revealed “the need for long-term, residential treatment and life-skills training for those struggling with alcohol and drug addictions.” 

Founded in 2001, the John Volken Academy exists to help meet this need. States Vice President of Education Gabrielle Steed, “In 2004 John sold United Furniture Warehouse and transferred virtually all the assets into the John Volken Foundation began and devoting his efforts on a full time basis to providing people in need with the opportunity to help themselves become successful, contributing members of society.” She explains, “At the John Volken Academy, our mission is to be a world leader in:

Providing the most effective and affordable residential addiction recovery treatment;

Cultivating self worth and strong character;

Teaching relevant job and life skills;

Advancing secondary and post-secondary education;

And instilling in each student the desire to always strive to be the best that they can be for themselves, for their families, and for their community.

The John Volken Academy has become a leader in this sphere, assisting numerous Canadians as they seek treatment and educational training that will allow them to live a full life beyond addiction. Notes Steed, “The John Volken Academy is a therapeutic community that provides both psych educational and life skills training to young men and women between the ages of 18 and 32. The Academy itself is not a religious based facility, but is open to individuals from all faith backgrounds.”

 The John Volken Academy is committed to raising awareness about the far-reaching impact and presence of addiction within Canada. Reflects Steed, “Addiction knows no boundaries and reaches every faith community across Canada. Addiction devastates the lives of individuals and families.”

John Volken remains an inspiration to his team, those seeking treatment, and the Canadian public. Notes Steed, “When John is asked about the motivation behind his charitable work, his answer is simple: “Helping others has brought me tremendous joy and satisfaction. I believe that once we have provided for our families, we should then work for the good of all; whether it be the arts, amateur sports, public office … whatever you may choose. There are so many opportunities to make this a better world. Personally, I am motivated by Matthew, chapter 25, verse 40: In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Steed reflects on Volken’s commitment to helping his fellow Canadians and the way in which he seeks, through the Academy, to create a constructive and supportive space within which to journey through and past addiction. “We can each be a little bit more like John and less judgmental of those that are struggling with addiction. We can help them lift themselves out of their destructive life-styles and rebuild their lives. If you know anyone struggling with addiction, please help provide them with the hope that recovery is possible.”

As Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations approach, the John Volken Academy is serving their community as fully as ever. Reports Steed, “We strive to develop attitudes of social responsibility in our students by volunteering and participating in community events and service projects on a regular basis. In the past year we contributed to building the community bark park, the Fire Fighters Toy Drive, the Christmas Bureau’s Christmas gift hampers, and the City of Surrey’s Agricultural Festival. We look forward to continuing our volunteer work and contributing to Canada 150 events this year.”  

Indeed, Canada’s sesquicentennial celebration provide an opportunity for the John Volken Academy to look back at their rich history while looking to the many years of work ahead. “The 150th anniversary of Canada is a time for us as an organization to reflect on the wonderful country we live in and all the opportunities that are available for Canadians. We are happy to be one of these opportunities that Canadians have access to and will be partaking in a number of celebrations locally to help increase awareness of what we are all about here at the John Volken Academy.”

Faith in Canada 150 would like to thank the John Volken Academy for its partnership. For more information on the John Volken Academy, please visit:

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