Giving in Grimsby, One Grant at a Time

They came for the wine, the company, and the big decision: A gift of $2,000 to help boost support services and caregiver relief in West Niagara.

At the inaugural 40 at the Forty fundraising event, forty philanthropists from the Grimsby area gathered to choose between three worthy causes to support that night. The lucky winner was Rose Cottage Community Hospice, coming away with $2,000 of a total $4,000 in gifts. The other two organizations each received $500, and the remaining $1,000 went to the Grimsby Community Fund – the Niagara Community Foundation’s local endowment fund covering Grimsby.

“It’s a very classy event,” said Rose Cottage’s Executive Director, Sherry Cain. “Just the way that it’s set up. You arrive. There’s hospitality. There’s food. It’s a beautiful venue – Peninsula Ridge Winery.”

“For us, it’s not all about the financial gain, but an opportunity for us to make the community aware of our services.”

The grant, Cain said, will go towards popular drop-in and transportation programs that Rose Cottage provides. But it’s far from the only community-building grant coming to Grimsby through the Niagara Community Foundation and the Grimsby Community Fund.

The Grimsby Fund officially opened in 2014, joining the Niagara Community Foundation’s roster of local Community Funds – endowment funds which pay out grants specifically to great causes in each of Niagara’s local area municipalities. As of 2019, Grimsby’s fund – in which funds are held in perpetuity, with payouts coming from the interest on the total endowment – held approximately $120,000. More 40 at the Forty events are planned, along with other grants to help great causes in the community.

“We’re always looking for ways to grow (the fund) to keep serving charities within the community,” said Gary Evans, chair of the Grimsby Fund Committee and a Foundation board member.

Evans said 40 at the Forty is the big event the fund has focused on over the past six months.

“We are able to get three small charities for each event out from the community, where they come and explain what they do. Our goal is really giving them exposure to the forty philanthropic people who attend the events and make a connection to potential donors,” he said.

The donations are practically a sidebar, he said. Just as valuable is building connections between charities and philanthropists – relationships that make fundraising easier for a small charity. It’s tough for a small organization to build awareness, Evans said. But through 40 at the Forty, charities can make contacts which can have a lasting impact on their ability to do their jobs.

Grimsby Fund board member Don Stewart, who came up with 40 on the Forty, said he was inspired by similar events in larger communities. “The Grimsby Fund was looking for a unique way to increase our exposure in the philanthropic community and learn more about charitable causes in our community. The concept fills both goals,” he said.

“We are pleased with the response of our membership and the presenters have expressed their gratitude openly. I can say that all of us have learned a great deal about great things happening in Grimsby.”

The events have had an effect on community awareness not only for the charities, Evans said, but for the Grimsby Fund itself. “We’re able to see that over the last six to eight months… we’ve been receiving more opening of funds (by families) within the Grimsby Community Fund that have a legacy in the community.”

Bob Bentley, the former Grimsby Mayor, was key in establishing the fund. He followed the success of the Niagara Community Foundation since its inception, along with its work helping charities in need.

“When I had an opportunity to start the Grimsby Community Fund, I saw it as a great way to show leadership, raise the fund profile, encourage others to contribute large or small amounts and help out the many worthwhile charities in our community,” Bentley said. “I hope others will carry on the work we started and help grow the fund so our many charities can benefit and continue their great work.”

Stewart said he joined the fund because he wanted to support grassroots charities. Many non-profit and charitable groups, he said, do wonderful work in the communities, but self-funding and fundraising are constant pressures, and they escalate each year.

“These organizations really depend on philanthropic support in order to fulfill their mission statement. A community fund gives donors the opportunity to support these organizations in perpetuity,” he said.

Bryan Rose, Executive Director of the Niagara Community Foundation, says the Foundation will keep working to support good causes in the Grimsby community.

“It’s important for us to have a very local focus on Niagara’s communities. That’s why we have our community funds,” Rose said. “We’re incredibly gratified to see how well Grimsby has responded to us so far, and we’re looking forward to supporting great programs for a long time to come.”

For small charities like Rose Cottage, Cain says the Grimsby Community Fund is invaluable. While many large charities have their own fundraising arms, smaller grassroots charities – many of which have been around for decades – have opportunities through the Fund to give back.

“I think it’s fantastic,” she said. “There are so many well-deserving charities in Niagara, period, but especially in West Niagara.”

But it’s not all small gifts: The Niagara Community Foundation’s impact in Grimsby has brought help for large projects, including helping the Grimsby Auxiliary Marine Rescue Unit (GAMRU) South Shore Search and Rescue move closer to making a life-saving investment. A $15,000 grant from the David S. Howes Fund has put the organization closer to purchasing a new fast-response rescue boat. It will replace their current boat, which dates from 1995.

Having a new boat is vital: In 2018, GAMRU deployed 38 times, among 100 deployments over the last three years. That compares to 180 over the previous decade.

The gift puts the organization at approximately $237,000 towards their $275,000 target.

“It was absolutely foundational,” said GAMRU Deputy Unit Leader Doug Mepham. “It gives us momentum in two important areas.” Not only has the grant given staff a sense of confidence, it has given the organization momentum with donors in the broader Grimsby and Lake Ontario community.

“A grant from the Niagara Community Foundation validates our position in the community. It says to other donors, ‘Check these people out. They’re bona fide.’”

The grant from the Foundation was GAMRU’s first. But after reaching out to the Foundation, Mepham said the organization has learned a lot about fundraising. It’s a new approach for them, and a new way to get their name and story out into the community: Many along the Lake Ontario shore do not know what GAMRU South Shore Search and Rescue is, and may meet them only in an emergency. Now, however, more in the community have a chance to know about the work GAMRU does.

“This made it real for us, for our area,” Mepham said.

“In our view, it’s very gratifying.”

Lincoln Community Fund

Lincoln Mayor Sandra Easton has committed to building a strong new legacy fund for the Town of Lincoln, with help from the Niagara Community Foundation. On Oct. 22, 2015 the Mayor announced the launch of the new Lincoln Community Fund at an early morning meeting at the Fleming Centre. The Fund will be created over the next four years by using a portion of the proceeds from Mayor Easton’s Charity Golf Tournament, held in partnership with the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce.

“Since learning of the impact of similar funds across Niagara, I wanted to find a way that residents of Lincoln could create a similar legacy that would serve our community long into the future,” said Mayor Easton. “Council recently confirmed the work plan for sport, recreation and culture, and the Lincoln Community Fund will be a significant impetus to programming support for community agendas,” said the Mayor. “I see it as essential to success.”

“I have seen the impact of grants awarded to charities providing programs and services in Lincoln,” said Rich Gark, a Lincoln resident and Foundation director who chairs the Foundation’s Grants Committee. “To date we have provided more than $68,000 in grants to projects like the new boardwalk at Charles Daley Park, sending kids to camp and for AV equipment for community rooms at the new Fleming Centre in Beamsville.”

“Families and local businesses can create their own named fund within the Lincoln Community Fund,” said Liz Palmieri, Executive Director of the Niagara Community Foundation. The first organization to create a fund is the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce. The Holmes Barrett Family Fund is the first family fund created by long time Lincoln residents Sara Holmes and Ian Barrett. The capital in all the funds is preserved, with a portion of the annual earnings from the funds pooled and directed to support charitable programs and services in Lincoln.

“Our plans are to build on the celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017 to encourage more families and businesses to follow the lead of our new fund holders,” said Palmieri. “As demonstrated by Sara and Ian, this is something that young families can do, and the support of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce shows leadership by the business community”

Lincoln volunteers working with the community to build the Lincoln Community Fund include: Adrian Pennachetti, Carrie Beatty, David Wood, Rich Gark, Rob Foster, Sara Holmes and Stuart Reimer.

Funds created by Lincoln donors have also provided an additional $611,000 in grants to charities serving the community.

Welland Fund

The Welland Fund was the first local community fund created in partnership with the Niagara Community Foundation. It was opened in 2001 with the proceeds from the Welland Community Foundation, which was created in the 1990s with unused proceeds from a federal grant to support community development in Welland. When the Niagara Community Foundation created its local community fund model in 2001, volunteers from both groups met to see how the goals of the Welland Community Foundation could be advanced within the Niagara Community Foundation.

Welland volunteers helping us raise awareness of the Welland Community Fund include: Damian Goulbourne, Mike Grocholsky, Jeff Neill, Aulf Robitaille, Madeline Woodhead, Deanna Villella, Deb Zahra

Under the leadership of Mayor Sharpe, a new fund was created called the Welland Mayor's Children & Youth Fund. The proceeds from his annual gala are directed to this fund.

Wainfleet Fund

The idea to create the Wainfleet Fund was presented to council by (then) Foundation director Kelly Robson.  The Fund provides an opportunity for residents of Wainfleet to create a personal, business or family legacy in support of their community or for charities important to them. The Wainfleet Fund was created in 2011 by the Township council.  A three-year commitment to donate $25,000 was approved during that summer and the first gift to the Fund came as a result of a golf tournament which Mayor April Jeffs hosted that fall.

Once the Fund was approved a community meeting was organized to explain the long-term benefits to the community of the Fund and also to recruit a team of local volunteers to help raise awareness.  The inaugural volunteers included: Lori Heemskerk, Stan Pettit, Kelly Robson and Sharon Svob.

Shortly after the Wainfleet Fund was established, Kelly Robson and her husband Patrick opened the first family fund to be a part of the Wainfleet Fund- the Robson Family Fund.

Groups providing service in Wainfleet that have received grants from NCF include: Wainfleet Public Library, Wainfleet Seniors, Community Living Port Colborne-Wainfleet, and the Wainfleet Historical Society.

One other fund benefitting Wainfleet was the Carol Leppert Music Fund for Winger Public School and Steele Street Public School. Through her bequest, the earnings on the fund annually will provide every student at the school the opportunity to experience a live music or theatre performance.  Each year one student will receive a bursary to the instrumental music program of the District School Board of Niagara.  Any remaining funds will be used to maintain or replace musical instruments at the two schools.

Niagara Falls Fund

This fund was established in 2006 under the leadership of Mayor Ted Salci and Alderman Jim Diodati through the proceeds from the annual Sleep Cheap – Charities Reap event. And when Jim became Mayor he continued as the champion of this event. Each year hotels in Niagara Falls offer a block of rooms for four nights during their shoulder season at highly subsidized rates. All the proceeds are donated to charity and a team of hotel owners review the requests made directly to the city and determine the recipients. The Foundation’s share is used in two ways – to build the Niagara Falls Fund and also to support our granting program for projects benefitting the city.

Click here http://www.sleepcheapcharitiesreap.com/ for further information on the City of Niagara Falls Sleep Cheap Charities Reap program, funding request application, and notices.

St. Catharines Fund

The long road to the St. Catharines Community Fund goes back to 1994, when the council of the day approved in principle the proposal by Councilor Judy Casselman to form a committee to investigate heritage preservation. Initially, the focus was on finding a means to assist in protecting and maintaining St. Catharines' heritage, both natural and architectural. The Preservation Trust Committee set about establishing the objectives and terms of reference under which the community could acquire and restore heritage sites and buildings.

However, its focus expanded as a broader community need became apparent to committee members. In late November 1997, as the committee explored the types of structures which could accomplish these goals, it learned of established organizations called community foundations. Now in a number of major Canadian cities, community foundations have built substantial financial resources to assist projects deemed to be of benefit to the community.

During the following year, the committee met with the president and CEO of Community Foundations of Canada, Monica Patten, and other executives, managers and volunteers of various community foundations. It was the intent of the committee to incorporate a community foundation for St. Catharines, obtain charitable status, elect a board of directors and proceed with the solicitation and investment of donor funds.

At the same time, however, a similar movement was afoot at the regional level. In 1999, the Regional Government of Niagara initiated, as a millennium project, the formation of a Niagara Community Foundation. It has reached the point of incorporation, has received a charitable charter and formed a board of directors as well as establishing an administrative office. Donations already exceed $500,000.

How then could a St. Catharines community fund best fit with the objectives of the Niagara Community Foundation? Both organizations agreed there was an opportunity for a symbiotic relationship, in which both the region wide and the city's organizations could work toward a common cause.

A partnership was formed and an agreement prepared, with the assistance of the Niagara Community Foundation, members of the Community Foundations of Canada, city staff and local barrister, Harry J. Daniel. This agreement formalized the relationship between the Niagara Community Foundation and the St. Catharines Community Fund.
Members of the St. Catharines Community Fund Development Team include: Peter Partridge and Mark Brohman.

The primary focus of the St. Catharines Community Fund has been its Investing in St. Catharines Youth Fund, an initiative to help young people in financial need fully participate in the recreational, sports and cultural life of the City. The Fund was created in 2004 under the leadership of Mayor Tim Rigby through the proceeds from the Mayor's Au Marche, an annual dinner dance held in August. This event continues under the leadership of Mayor Walter Sendzik. More than 2,200 children and youth have benefited from this program since it began in the summer of 2004.