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Turkey dinner giveaway is mortgage broker’s way of giving back

People of Collingwood: Chris Dopp, owner of The Mortgage Centre
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Chris Dopp, who owns the Mortgage Centre in Collingwood, gave away 100 care packages to individuals hit hard by layoffs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Contributed photo/files

The memories of hunger when he was teaching English in Thailand have lingered and made him decide to prevent that hunger for others. 

For this week’s edition of People of Collingwood we spoke with Chris Dopp, 60, owner of The Mortgage Centre.

Q: For how long have you lived in Collingwood?

A: I’ve been here for 23 years.

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: I grew up in Aylmer, Ont. My dad owned the Canadian Tire store there.

I went from Aylmer to Orangeville.

I lived in South-East Asia in Thailand for nine years.

Q: What led you on that journey?

A: At one time, I was living up in northern British Columbia near the Yukon border.

There was an article in Rolling Stone magazine that said Thailand was the last place in the world where the American Dream could come true – that you could go there with nothing and become a millionaire.

I thought, OK, let’s give it a roll.

I got a job over there teaching English. I got a job with a hotel teaching the staff English there and I wasn’t making much money. I thought about leaving but the hotel suggested I start up my own company to apply for the contract myself, which I did.

That was in 1987. Everybody and their neighbour knows about Thailand now, but this was before it was really on the map. The hotel I was working for built two more hotels and asked me if I wanted those (contracts), and I said sure.

By the time I was up and rolling I had 20 guys working for me at hotels throughout Thailand.

Q: What made you want to come back?

A: I was 25 or 26 years old. I came back because I just felt it was time.

Q: What ended up bringing you to Collingwood?

A: When I came back to Canada, I started working in the hotel industry. By the time I paid my mortgage and bills, I had like 25 cents left.

I didn’t want to stay in Thailand anymore and a buddy of mine owned The Mortgage Centre in Orangeville. He asked me to come work for him.

He wanted me to go to Guelph, but I didn’t want to go to Guelph.

I looked at a map and saw Collingwood, and I had never even been here before. I loaded up my youngest daughter in the car and we drove up here. It was March.

It was a nice town on the water. I went back and told my buddy that I would do it but I wanted to work in Collingwood.

That’s how I got here. I’ve been here ever since.

I went back to school at Seneca College for two years to get a financial services underwriting diploma. It was tough.

Q: You’re known in the community for helping feed families in times of need. For almost 20 years, you’ve been giving out free turkey dinners days before Christmas. What drives you to do that?

A: I’ve also done one at Thanksgiving, and I’ve done them in the summer. With COVID, so many hospitality workers were laid off and there was no money. I decided to do a couple of giveaways and smaller versions.

I started in 2000, but I started small. I’d give out four or five-pound hams and a bag of potatoes. I graduated to turkeys. I kept adding things on. Now, people get a turkey, two cans of vegetables, a five-pound bag of potatoes, a dozen dinner rolls, a pie, juice, a hat, warm socks and gloves.

Let’s go back to Thailand. When I was there, there were times I didn’t have a pot to piss in.

I was hungry. I got to a stage where I had a five-bok coin in my pocket and I wasn’t going to have more money for a day and a half. I would go and buy an egg from a restaurant and I’d have some bread, and it held me off.

I kind of know what it’s like to be hungry. I knew there was money coming so I don’t know what it’s like to be hungry all the time.

There’s a working poor in Collingwood that people don’t really talk about. The ones that are paying a shit-load of money in rent and maybe they’re working at Tim Hortons.

What the Salvation Army does is spectacular, but I think there’s a bit of a stigma attached to actually applying for food.

I wanted to do something where people don’t have to fill out an application. It’s no questions asked. They come in, get their food and off they go.

Collingwood’s been good to me, so it was a way to give back. These people who are getting the food are not my clients.

Q: What are your hobbies outside of work?

A: I travel and I golf.

My goal is to hit the Century Club visiting different countries, which is when you travel to 100 different countries. I’m at about 65, I think.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like people in Collingwood to know about you?

A: Because the community has supported me, I’m able to support the community.

I have two lovely daughters – one in B.C. and one here.

I wish I were a better golfer. If anybody has any tips, let me know.

(This year’s Christmas dinner giveaway starts at 9 a.m. on Dec. 22 and is first come, first served at The Mortgage Centre at 192 First St.)

For our feature People of Collingwood, we’ll be speaking with interesting people who are either from or are contributing to the Collingwood community in some way, letting them tell their own stories in their own words. This feature will run on CollingwoodToday every weekend. If you’d like to nominate or suggest someone to be featured in People of Collingwood, email jessica@villagemedia.ca.


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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 13 years of experience to her role as reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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