Jim Estill, Danby CEO who sponsored 50 Syrian families, named to Order of Ontario

Jim Estill, CEO of appliance company Danby, will receive the Order of Ontario Wednesday afternoon for his work helping resettle 50 Syrian refugee families in the Guelph area.
Jim Eskill stands in a warehouse of household goods, donated and collected for the 50 Syrian refugees families he's sponsored since 2015. (CBC)

Jim Estill, CEO of appilance company Danby, has been named to the Order of Ontario for his work helping resettle 50 Syrian refugee families in the Guelph area. 

Estill paid the sponsorship costs personally, now believed to have been well over $1 million.

This marks the 30th anniversary of the Order of Ontario. 

The appointment is the province's highest honour; other order recipients today include: sprinter Donovan Bailey, prima ballerina Greta Hodgkinson and broadcaster Lisa LaFlamme.

When Estill announced his sponsorship plan in November, 2015, he sat down with the host of CBC K-W's The Morning Edition, Craig Norris, to talk about what inspired him to make that pledge. 

Q and A with Jim Estill

​Why are you going to do this?

In short, it's the right thing to do. You see what's going on, it's a crisis and we're Canadian. We should do the right thing.

Where did the idea come from?

It really was just seeing what was happening and seeing that things were so slow and that nothing was happening. It needed to be done so that's why I'm doing it. 

Was it always your plan? Did you think 'I'm going to sponsor multiple families' or is this the sort of thing that snowballed?

Over a one- or two-week period you look at it and see this is world crisis that needs to be dealt with. I guess I didn't even think 50 families was that big of a deal. I mean statistically if you take the population of Guelph and take the population of Canada and figure out how many families you should take, I just figured we needed to do it. I didn't think it was as big a deal as everyone else thought it was.

Why did you want to sponsor so many families?

You look at the number of people who need help in this crisis, 50 is a drop in the bucket, it is almost none. It's completely absorbable in a city the size of Guelph. In a sense some things are actually easier to do with a group of 50 families than with one because if you go and arrange housing, well, one house might be appropriate for one family and not for another.

You tap my business friends for jobs, and one person is more suited for blue collar and another person is more suited for white collar work. And English as a second language, it's much easier to say there's going to be a course after work and a course during the day and a course on Saturday when you have 50 families than when you have one or two families.

I also tend not to do things small. It's just not who I am, it's not what I do.