What started as a $1,000 donation 39 years ago has flourished to $14 million in assets dedicated to building a better quality of life in our community.
The Community Foundation of North Okanagan, originally known as the Vernon Benevolent Society, was created in 1975 when a number of members of the Vernon Rotary Club got together to discuss the need for a charitable society which focused on the needs of the community.
That first donation was the seed of the foundation, which has bloomed into a place for citizens to give back to their community, both during and after their own lifetime.
“We’re the best kept secret in town,” said Herb Wong, foundation secretary. “Most people don’t know who we are, they don’t know we are here.”
Operating under the Community Foundation of Canada umbrella, the local group is part of 191 community foundations. Each of them, including the North Okanagan’s, invests pooled funds which allow for continued giving.
“We try to earn six per cent a year,” said Wong. “We usually do a little bit better than that.”
Leanne Hammond, fund development officer, explains: “If you give it away, it’s gone very quickly.”
But by making a donation through the foundation, it is supporting an ever growing pool of funds “without having to replenish it.”
Hammond adds: “There’s no gift too small.”
There are also different levels of giving — individual, memorial or business.
Those funds have been used for a variety of local charities and projects: Kingfisher Interpretive Centre, the NONA Treehouse Project, re-enforcing the foundation for the Vernon Community Music School and installation of an elevator in the curling club, just to name a few.
The foundation recently delivered nearly $90,000 to 21 groups at its annual grant ceremony.
“One of the grants we gave out was the third time we supported the Dental Access Centre,” said Hammond.
The support is delivered to various groups, causes and agencies throughout the greater North Okanagan community.
That is where the petals of the foundation emblem come into play – they represent the six different communities in our area: Coldstream, Lumby, Armstrong, Spallumcheen, Enderby and Vernon.
One area of giving the foundation would like to see greater growth in is the smart and caring fund.
This discretionary fund puts the donations where they are needed most at the time.
As an example, someone may be partial to a larger charity simply because they’ve seen advertisements and fundraisers for it, but their dollars could be more desperately needed by a smaller organization.
“What about all of the charities nobody’s ever heard of?” said Hammond. “What about the future?”
And it’s all local people with a connection to the community which helps determine where smart and caring dollars go.
“The board of directors has control of where that money will go,” said Wong.
The foundation also keeps a finger on the pulse of the community with its Vital Signs report, which is completed every two years.
For more information about the foundation, go to wwwcfno.org.