November 25, 2015
In 2014, Warren Ebert — Managing Director/CEO of the rapidly-growing Queensland-based Sentinel Property Group, and a long-term Salvation Army supporter – met Salvation Army Rural Flying Chaplain Mark Bulow.
Hearing of the desperate plight of many Queensland farmers and that corporate sponsorship of the service was due to run out, Warren gathered some friends for a lunch and raised over $75,000 for the service (on top of his personal Red Shield donations).
With some understanding of the depth of need in the farming community (he has some links to the land and many rural investors in Sentinel Property Group), Warren committed to continue to raise funds for rural chaplaincy
He has now been joined in the effort by the Ray White Rural chain.
As well as another lunch, scheduled for late 2015, the group is looking to enlist further corporate sponsorship.
“You can be the best farmer in the world,” Warren says. “You can be well-funded, with the best-business practices; but you have so many factors that are completely out of your control such as currency fluctuations, political pressure or decisions and drought.
“Sadly,” he says: “You now have the ever-increasing suicide rate out there, where farmers are shooting their starving cattle and then shooting themselves. It’s horrendous!”
At the 2014 fundraising lunch, Warren says the reality of the situation hit home, when one of his regular Sentinel Property Group investors — “an old cow-cocky” — told a story of the time a farming friend was about to end his life, when he saw a Salvos car coming down the driveway.
He thought they wanted a donation.
Warren explains: “When they came in (apparently) they said ‘no, no, were not here for that, we just wanted to let you know we’ve paid your phone bill and your electricity and it’s all back on’.
“He’s now got a couple of grown kids, grandkids, but if the Salvos didn’t come that day, it would’ve all been over.”
In 2010, with extensive experience in real estate, Warren and a group of business friends started Sentinel Property Group, which has grown rapidly to around $800 million under management.
Warren explains that “in philanthropy, as in business, I don’t mind spending money, but hate wasting it, so I look closely at what goes in commission, what goes to administration and what goes to overheads”.
As well as the low overheads, and non-judgemental attitude, Warren says: “The reason I identify The Salvation Army as our main charity, is that in the early ’90s, a friend of mine was on the Red Shield Appeal board, and asked me to coordinate an area.
“One day when I was out collecting, there was an old fellow who came to the door and it was just a basic pensioner’s flat and you could see he didn’t have any money, but he gave me a cheque for a hundred dollars.
“He said ‘when I was in the war, the Salvos were always there to help us out,’” Warren explains. “I just see the good work that they do.
“If we can raise some funds (especially for the rural flying chaplain) and they know they have an annual budget to draw on, then they can get on and do the job they’re trying to do and help the people out there who most need it.”