About Our Founder

“Once we have provided for our families, we should then work for the good of all.”

The Entrepreneur of the Year in 1995,

the visit by the Dalai Lama in 2014,

and the audience with Pope Francis in 2021

were some of the highlights of my career.

However, those experiences are just fleeting moments.

Far more important is my relationship with my family,

my relationship with my fellow man,

and above all my relationship with God.

These relationships are eternal.

John Volken was born in Germany during WWII. He lost his father in the war and spent part of his youth in an orphanage in East Germany. This may well have been the seed of his current endeavors. At 18, John immigrated to Canada with no money, but with plenty of enthusiasm. He started his climb from rags to riches as a dishwasher, farm laborer, and construction worker. As he became comfortable with the English language he turned to sales and business and finally found his niche…in 1981, he opened a small second-hand furniture store. He built this enterprise into one of the largest furniture retail chains in North America, with over 150 locations and more than $200 million in annual sales. For his accomplishments, John received many awards, including “Entrepreneur of the Year” for Canada’s Pacific Region.

Having achieved financial success, John often reflected on his days in the orphanage and his desire to one day help those in need. He counseled with various disenfranchised communities. They consistently stressed the need for long-term, residential treatment facilities that incorporated teaching life and job skills. During the next eight years, John visited and studied numerous addiction treatment facilities worldwide.

In 2004, John sold his furniture business and put the proceeds in a foundation which today supports the John Volken Academy and other charities.

John and Chawna Volken being honored by Pope Francis Dec 15, 2021

John and Chawna Volken being honored by Pope Francis Dec 15, 2021

John is often asked why he embarked on this demanding mission. A typical response is:

“The other day, a student made a rather serious mistake…that’s expected. It gave me an opportunity to spend some time with him. After our “heart to heart” we hugged and I told him that I loved him. He responded with tears and said, “My father never said that to me…and how can you love me after all the stupid things I have done?” I reassured him that his mistakes were behind him, and that he was on his way to a new life. That is what the John Volken Academy is all about. Forgiveness and change. There are tears, there are laughs, there is hope, there are struggles, there is change…The transformations are incredible! Every day I am grateful to God for the opportunity to be part of changing lives.”