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Meet new Executive Committee member Michael Flinker

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Meet Michael Flinker, Chabad Lifeline's newest Executive Committee member. 

After graduating from Concordia in 1977 with a BCom and a major in accounting, Michael subsequently started FLS Transportation Services Inc with two friends in June of 1987. They sold the business in March, 2016 and Michael remained until Aug 2018, having built it into the largest logistics company in Canada, and the 20th largest in the USA.

Upgrading Chabad Lifeline's digital system

Michael and his wife Marcia are well-known philanthropists  in Montreal circles and their generosity has helped people of all backgrounds physically, mentally, and spiritually. They have financed massive projects for the Jewish General Hospital, Cedar's Cancer Foundation, Montreal Torah Centre, and Lower Canada College.

What drives the magnanimity of the Flinkers'? "My late mother had a great adage," Michael shared in a one-on-one interview with Chabad Lifeline. "She used to say that you have three obligations in life. One is to donate money to charity if you have the means to do so. Two is to put in time. And three: in a perfect world do both. I've lived by that credo all my life. I think when one succeeds in life, one has an obligation to put something back into the community."

This past summer, Michael's daughter Julie worked as an intern at Chabad Lifeline where she saw firsthand the life-saving work. "She called me one day, saying "Dad, they really could use your help," and that's how I got involved."

When Michael visited Chabad Lifeline, he sat in for one of the Open Meetings and was blown away. In a conversation with Rabbi Bresinger, Michael stressed the need to go digital. "I decided to buy the necessary computer hardware and software to enable them to best serve their clients. It was Julie's inspiration and influence," he confessed.

The secret to a good family

Michael and Marcia have four children, who are sources of great pride for the Flinkers. We asked Michael the secret ingredient for raising kids to be good people.

"My wife and I put in a tremendous amount of time with our kids," he shared. "My favourite activity is to hang out with my kids. I coached my two boys in hockey and baseball for over 10 years, and I ski with my kids every weekend. We hang out at our cottage and put a lot of time into our family. 

"Most people, particularly families that are well off, think that if you buy kids toys, that will suffice. But what kids really need is time, guidance, and love," he stressed. "I've always told my kids that if money was the key to happiness, then poor families would all be miserable and the rich would be ecstatic. But if you look at the poor families, their kids are often happier than the kids from rich families because the parents can't buy them toys they have no choice but to put in a lot of time, and time is ultimately what kids want and need. Our role as parents is to help develop their values, self-esteem, and self-confidence, and that will only happen if the parents put in the effort."

Giving people a second chance

Michael recently joined Chabad Lifeline's Executive Committee. We asked him what motivated that decision.

"I really like Rabbi Bresinger and Karen, and I'm really impressed with the work they're doing," he explained. "I've always been of the belief in life that people who mess up deserve a second chance. Chabad Lifeline is giving people a second chance, and in some cases a third or a fourth chance. People deserve a chance to rebound and get back on their feet and that's what they're doing". 

"Addiction is an area of society that is often overlooked," he continued. "Addicts are often regarded as people who put themselves in this predicament, so why should we we worry about helping them? For whatever reason they got into this predicament - and sometimes it's genetic, sometimes it can be an issue that they've encountered in their own family or workplace that drove them to do this - people ultimately deserve a second chance. We're all human, and we all make mistakes, but we shouldn't be punished for those mistakes for the rest of our lives."

No one wanted to become an addict

Michael was welcomed to Chabad Lifeline's Executive Committee by its Chair, Eddie Wiltzer. "We are thrilled to have someone of the caliber of Mike, who has done so much for our community, to join us and help save lives," said Eddie. "The addition of Mike to our Executive Committee comes at the perfect time, just as we are expanding our staff and our presence in the schools, and we are excited to have his experience and talents to guide our growth."

Michael had a heartfelt message about Chabad Lifeline's work for our readers. The impoverished man you see in the street eating a half-eaten McDonald's burger from a garbage can. It's not something he or she elected to do. They don't have a choice. Nobody wants to end up in a garbage can. "Until you're walking in another man's shoes, don't judge what they've done and don't judge how they've acted because you don't know what happened in their life."

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Michael will be present on Thursday, October 18, where we will be screening three short films on addiction, including an Oscar winner. You will also have an opportunity to hear firsthand from a recovering addict and her mother at a dynamic Q&A session following the screening. The films all focus on how addiction affects the family, and tickets can be purchased here. To read more about each film and watch their trailers, click here.

Too Much Yabba Dabba Doo

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In 1988, ABC aired the Flintstone Kids' "Just say no" special which taught children the value of saying no to drugs.

Ironically, my trajectory to cocaine addiction began with the Flintstones.

Well, Flintstone candies.

My cough syrup rage

I always did things in excess. I felt strong feelings, I delivered passionate statements, and I looooved my vitamins.

Remember those vitamins? I used to eat them like candy.

As I got older, I discovered grape flavoured cough syrup. Yum!

I wasn't able to moderate my cough syrup intake. My parents would hide the bottle but I would search the house until I found it.

I began faking coughs. My parents didn't know what to do with me.

I don't remember my teenage years much

My cough syrup mania lasted until I discovered alcohol. I was 12 when I had my first drink (my friend Gary S and I snuck outside to a nearby alley at a Bat Mitzvah party).

Alcohol was where my descent sped up. I was regularly in trouble at school and at home. I was hanging out with the wrong crowd, and I did plenty of stuff I'm ashamed of today.

When I was 16, a friend introduced me to cocaine. I was instantly hooked. My life went on hold. Looking back, it was one big blur. I was stealing and using. I was a mess.

Chabad Lifeline moves quick

When I was 24 I hit rock bottom and finally reached out. I called Chabad Lifeline. The person who answered the phone was a volunteer receptionist. I don't remember much of what she said, except "you never have to be alone again."

I never would be. I thought I would have to wait a few weeks for an appointment but my intake took place that very afternoon.

It was that day at Chabad Lifeline that changed my life path. I met Cindy*, who was around my age and was also in recovery. She took me out to eat, brought me to my first meeting.

I followed my tight treatment plan, and surrounded myself with good, healthy people committed to recovery.

Some important thank yous

I am four years clean as of today. I work in education and feel cleaner and healthier than I have ever felt.

I want to thank Chabad Lifeline for restoring me and guiding me to leading a meaningful and mindful life. I am proud to be part of the Chabad Lifeline family.

Rachel*

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*Please note: Names and some information has been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved.

On October 18, we will be screening a series of films depicting how addiction affects the family, including "Reset," "Mutt," and the Oscar-winning short film "Curfew." You can find out more information about each film and purchase tickets here

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