John Volken was born in Germany during World War II. He lost his father in the war and spent part of his youth in an orphanage in East Germany. While those early years were difficult, he now views them as a positive influence in shaping his life.
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 labourer, and construction worker. As he became comfortable with the English language, he turned to sales and business and soon realized that he had 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 researched various areas of social neglect and, in 1995, began meeting with advocates of the disenfranchised community. Those he spoke with consistently stressed the need for long-term, residential treatment facilities that incorporated teaching life and job skills to addicts and alcoholics. During the next eight years, John visited and studied numerous addiction treatment facilities worldwide. In 2004, John sold his furniture business in order to direct his full-time and energy into effectively meeting and filling this social need. He established WelcomeHomeresidential addiction treatment facilities in Seattle, WA and Vancouver, BC.
John is often asked why he embarked on this meaningful mission. A typical response is:
“The other day, one of the students made a rather serious mistake… but 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 re-assured him that his mistakes were behind him, and that he was now on his way to a new life. That is what WelcomeHome is all about. Similar events happen all the time. There are tears, there are laughs, there is hope, there is struggle, there is change… amazing change followed by a whole new life, a life of success and happiness. The transformations are incredible! Everyday I am grateful to God for the opportunity to be part of WelcomeHome.