The eldest of ten children, Metcalf left school at an early age to help support his family and worked as a stock boy at William Neilson’s ice cream plant. His drive and tenacity led him to work in sales, where he frequently crossed paths with Garfield Weston who was building his grocery business in Toronto. In the late 1940s, Weston persuaded Metcalf to join Loblaw as a vice-president. By 1954, Metcalf was President and Managing Director of George Weston Ltd. and Loblaw Companies. For the next fifteen years he helped turn Weston’s into a North American food empire.
In its early years, Metcalf’s philanthropy focused on social, educational, and health issues in Ontario. In the 1970s, Metcalf’s son, George Jr., a history professor, assumed responsibility for the Foundation and broadened its interests and geographic scope. Upon George Jr.’s death in 1990, his wife Johanna, and their children, worked with a board to direct the Foundation. In 1998, George Cedric Metcalf died and left his estate to the Foundation. This gift led to significant changes and the Foundation focused its resources in three areas: performing arts, environment, and poverty reduction. The Foundation views its priorities and strategies as evolving responses to the social challenges it seeks to affect.