Group of diverse food bank volunteers organize donate canned food items. A new fund will provide assistance for charities during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Contributed)

Fund to help charities in Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson valleys

Community Response Fund to bring $138,000 to region

First West Foundation, the philanthropic partner to Valley First, a division of First West Credit Union, has launched a new Community Response Fund to help charities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fund will bestow $600,000 in community grants to charities, including $138,000 for the Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson valleys.

“These organizations urgently need funds to deliver their programs and services to the community’s most vulnerable during the very difficult circumstances the pandemic has created,” said Richard Hill, chair of the First West Foundation board of directors. “Our mission is to help them do what they do best.”

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Registered charities working to address food security and basic needs for youth, families and seniors affected by COVID-19 are eligible to apply for funding.

“Typically, granting applications require detailed information to qualify and then the funds may take several months to be distributed,” said Susan Byrom, executive director of the First West Foundation. “We know the need in our communities is urgent so we’ve set up these funds as low-barrier — meaning the application process is fast and simple and funding will be disbursed quickly to address this need.”

The fund is set up in two parts. The Community Response Fund provides a total of $500,000 in grants to charitable organizations focused on food security and basic needs support for youth, families and seniors most impacted by COVID-19 in the regions First West Credit Union serves.

The Community Help Fund will provide $100,000 in the form of $500 grants to charities that complete a profile on Do Some Good about their organization to kickstart their fundraising efforts. 200 grants will be awarded in total. Do Some Good is a social impact technology platform designed to amplify community impact by connecting Canadians with local causes.

In the region Valley First serves, the First West Foundation is distributing $115,000 in community response funding and $23,000 in Community Help Fund grants through the Valley First Community Endowment.

Applications are now being accepted through the First West Foundation website at firstwestfoundation.ca.

Charities can request any amount but may not receive all the funding requested. A small committee will review grant applications and make funding recommendations. As part of its community investment, First West Credit Union pays all operating expenses, ensuring 100 per cent of foundation funds are used for charitable purposes.

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