PHOTO | KELLY DI DOMENICO DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE
Francois Gloutnay with some of the stamps donated to Development & Peace.
MONTREAL – Francois Gloutnay is stamping out poverty – one stamp at a time.
Gloutnay, communications officer at the Montreal office of Development and Peace, the official international development organization of the Catholic Church in Canada, is also an avid stamp collector.
"I've collected stamps since I was a young boy," says Gloutnay. "I always enjoyed learning about the various countries they came from. It gave me a good sense of world geography."
In addition to collecting stamps, Gloutnay sells them. But it's not for his own benefit; every year he helps organize stamp sales on behalf of Development and Peace at Montreal-area stamp shows.
The stamps sell for a few cents each. But it all adds up; since 1992, when Gloutnay became involved in the fundraising effort, the sales have raised more than $335,000 for Development and Peace's programs around the world.
"We're quite pleased with the result," he says.
Gloutnay doesn't do it alone. Fifteen other stamp collectors – all volunteers – help him by separating the stamps from the envelopes, then organizing them by country or theme for sale at the shows.
The project started in 1984, a time before email and faxes when most communications were sent by mail.
"Back then, we got a lot of mail," Gloutnay says. "Someone suggested that instead of throwing away the envelopes, we should try to sell the stamps."
In the early years, they raised about $1,000 annually. Now about $25,000 comes in every year.
Today, of course, fewer people send things by mail. So where do they get all those stamps?
"We still get some from donations and letters sent to the office," Gloutnay says. "But most come from churches, schools, unions and individuals who save stamps and send them to us."
Members of the Catholic Women's League are also big supporters. "Each week, I receive at least one big envelope from a local council somewhere in Canada," he says.
Although most of the stamps they get are Canadian, many come from other countries.
"Collectors know if they want a stamp from a foreign country, the Development and Peace table is the place to go," he says.
Most of the stamps sell for five to 10 cents, he says, but a few rarer ones have sold for up to $40.
For Gloutnay, the stamp sales are a great way to combine his hobby with raising funds to help people in the developing world.
"By themselves, the stamps aren't worth much," he says. "But together, they add up to bring in a lot of money to help others."
If you want to add your stamps to the effort, send them to Francois Gloutnay, Development and Peace, 1425, boul. René-Lévesque Ouest, Montréal, Québec H3G 1T7. Gloutnay can be contacted at 514-257-8711, ext. 318 or email@example.com.
(John Longhurst directs resources and public engagement at Canadian Foodgrains Bank.)