By Laura Parkinson
For the News Express
Community leaders learned how philanthropy can play a vital role in Centre Wellington and help fulfill its vision in the years ahead.
The Centre Wellington Community Foundation (CWCF), a public charitable foundation dedicated to facilitating support for local causes, engaged a broad group of community leaders during its first leadership event Nov. 29.
The community leaders dialogue held at the Fergus Highland Rugby Club, featured speeches and four short videos of mini-grant recipients, produced by local video production company Tivoli Films, Inc.
Participants included board members, guest speakers and community leaders from the charitable or philanthropic sectors, business, government, politics and service clubs.
During his opening remarks, board member John Kissick said the evening was about sharing the foundation’s vision and starting a conversation about philanthropy and its future in the community.
“It is hopeful that this evening acts as an initial catalyst for change,” he said.
The Centre Wellington Community Foundation works to help donors and the organizations they wish to support, he said. Donors can give cash, appreciated stocks, real estate or other assets.
“It’s an organization committed to community philanthropy. We aspire to be a helpful link between donors and the causes that are most important to them,” he said.
The CWCF is a member of the Community Foundations of Canada (CFC) – an umbrella organization of 185 foundations across the country.
Community foundations exist in major urban centres as well as small rural towns. Centre Wellington is the national organization’s newest member.
“It’s a real vital link between connecting donors … to causes that matter in our community, all with the aim of building and creating a healthy, sustainable, vital community,” said CFC’s director of member services Cindy Lindsay, a local resident who spoke at the event.
Through the growth of community foundations and the generosity of donors, the organization holds collectively across the country over $3 billion in endowed assets, Lindsay said. Last year, this resulted in more than $200 million in grants.
Community foundations take a broad view of the community and involve supporting a variety of causes including Alzheimer’s programs, scholarships, music programs, bursaries, and the performing arts, among others.
Lindsay said it’s wonderful to see the establishment of a community foundation here.
“Centre Wellington deserves it," she said. “It’s not only important for today but it’s important for generations to come."
Guest speaker Rosemary Smith, CEO of the Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation, extended the welcome.
“I’ve always admired this community … small communities are my heart and soul,” she said. “We’re delighted to have you as colleagues and as members of the Community Foundations of Canada.”
Smith provided additional insight into community foundations, including a brief history of how they came to be, as well as her involvement with the Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation. She also offered support and advice.
“I ask you to think not in terms of big dollars but in terms of dreams, the way you want to make your community be all you want it to be for yourself, your children, grandchildren because that’s truly what community foundations are, that’s what we do,” she said.
The Centre Wellington Community Foundation oversees seven funds: Community Fund, Kath Hammond Literacy Fund, Cedarcliff Fund, Community Leadership Fund, Elma and David Jack Youth Recreation Fund, Elora Green Space Fund and the Middlebrook Fund for Social Innovation.
Two of the funds – Cedarcliff Fund and Community Fund – are issuing grants. Over time, a number of funds will unfold and make grants, CWCF chair Randall Howard said.
“We’re really just at the beginning,” he said.
The foundation’s six general areas for granting include social services, education, healthcare, child and youth, arts and culture, and the environment.
The idea of the community foundation is to build funds and meet the needs of donors to the point it can grant, he said. If the money is managed well, the granting process is never-ending.
“Every year the funds grow, your ability to grant grows,” he said.
The reasons behind donating to a community foundation are many, he said, referring to the notion of leaving a legacy and meeting specific donor needs through the offering of varied funds.
Donations large and small are welcome – it’s about collectively pooling together from a large base of donors, thousands ideally, he said.
The foundation is not just about building assets, but about “connecting with the community and figuring out what the community wants.”
“We call this event a dialogue because our plans were to start a conversation with you as our community leaders … about how as a community foundation we can be better,” he said.
Elora designer Dorothy Ames came to learn more about the foundation. She’s aware many families use food banks and is interested in helping kids in the community, wanting to make sure they don’t go to school hungry.
Although the event answered many questions, Ames would like further details on how the money grows and what they do with it. She plans to follow up with Howard regarding her questions – something he encouraged guests to do following the presentation.
The evening featured a special acknowledgement of a founding board member who passed away from cancer earlier this year, Rhoda Lipton. Howard took the time to personally acknowledge his friend and colleague.
“She was a force to be reckoned with – she came from afar, adopted this community with an energy that anyone who ever worked with her would totally know.”
Lipton, along with husband Benny di Zitti, set up the first endowed fund - Cedarcliff Fund - to develop and maintain arts and culture in Centre Wellington.
Two of nine mini-grants (grants up to $500) presented earlier this year came out of the Cedarcliff Fund - to the Elora Tarot Project and Casson’s Elora Portfolio project
The remainder came out of the Community Fund to support projects by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Centre Wellington, Elora Centre for the Arts, NeighbourWoods on the Grand, Elora United Church, CWDHS Food School, Grand River Conservation Foundation and Habitat for Humanity.