WESTLOCK – The Westlock Community Foundation (WCF) will distribute $170,000 of the federal government’s $400 million Community Services Recovery Fund to Athabasca, Barrhead and Westlock area charities, non-profits, and Indigenous governing bodies, with an in-person workshop for applicants this week in Westlock.
WCF chair Wayne Peyre said they’ve sent out letters to area non-profits alerting them of the session that runs Wednesday, Jan. 25, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Westlock Inn and are hoping for a decent turnout. At the end of November, federal minister of Families, Children and Social Development Karina Gould announced that the Community Foundations of Canada alongside the Canadian Red Cross and United Way Centraide Canada, would distribute the “one-time” money to help a “broad and diverse range” of groups “adapt and modernize” as due to the pandemic, they’ve been most impacted by an “increased demand for services, reduced revenues, declines in charitable giving due to the rising cost of living, and a greater need to make use of digital tools as part of adapting and modernizing their operations.”
The local dollars are meant to help groups adapt how they deliver services to support the needs of their staff and volunteers; buy computers and software; create new ways of working, such as developing new fundraising approaches; provide support for staff and volunteers, such as training, supports for mental health and wellbeing; and develop plans to receive funding from diverse sources. For more specifics, visit: https://communityservicesrecoveryfund.ca/.
“We’ve tried to reach out by sending out letters via Family and Community Support Services and similar organizations to a whole bunch of community service organizations to try and get the information out there as best we can,” said Peyre. “We’ve haven’t heard a lot back yet, but I think people are just starting to become aware of it.”
Peyre said the minimum they’ll hand out per group is $10,000, although there’s a national stream under the same program that starts at $20,000 per. He said they’re also looking to hire someone specifically to help groups through the application process, or even get them in contact with the correct funding stream as there are three: Investing in People, Investing in Systems and Processes; and Investing in Program and Service Innovation and Redesign.
“We’re looking to hire someone just for this program to make it easier for people to succeed,” he added. “We’d love to be oversubscribed on this program and want to make sure the funds are all used to take these community service organizations to the next level and get through these difficult times.”
WCF to hire director
The WCF is also looking to hire a full-time executive director, a first the organization that formed in the fall of 2021 and is built upon the $8 million estate of Florence and Albert Miller.
Peyre said the board thought “long and hard” about hiring a staffer and found that community foundations tend to succeed “when the right person is hired to drive it forward.” The organization is still a year away from being able to hand out any dollars as they’re waiting on their “investment returns” from that initial nest egg.
“It become a situation where you transition from a working board to a governance board, because if you stay strictly as a working board, you’re going to burn people out,” he explained. “We need to be in a position to get everything done that needs to be done and as we keep moving forward, we felt that having a full-time, executive director was a crucial step.
“We’ve talked to a lot of community foundations, and they won’t tell you that you need somebody, but as soon as you say you’re thinking about it, they’re quite enthusiast as a lot of community foundations have disappeared because they’ve tried to do it all with only volunteers and they get burnt out.”
Peyre said the board will continue to transition over the coming year and will shed more ties to be independent of the Town of Westlock — while the Millers donated their estate to the town, the municipality turned those funds over to the foundation.
“People have to realize that this is meant to be independent of the town and we’ve got to be in a position where we have the independence. My guess is that the town councillors who are currently on the board will likely come off within the next year just so we’re independent of the politics,” he continued. “So again, we’re looking at being in a position where the work has to be taken over by someone full-time and it’s everything from establishing the administration framework and accounting systems, to starting to develop the grant programs and endowment funds.
“So, there’s a whole bunch of things that are going on from a lot of different directions. We’ve done a lot of work so far, but we have a lot more ahead of us. Everyone is excited, but we also don’t want to start going backwards and want to keep the momentum moving forward.”