Since the start of 2020, the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen has delivered more than $974,000 in grants to the community, the largest amount in a one-year-period, to date.
“To put this in perspective, we granted more in 2020 than in the four previous years combined,” said Sarah Trudeau, Manager of grants and community initiatives. “As a team, we reviewed close to 300 applications and managed 10 granting programs.”
“COVID really brought to the light the struggle our communities were facing,” added Trudeau. In the spring, CFSOS, along with an anonymous donor and the Vancouver Foundation, granted $195,000 to charities in the region who were addressing front- line, COVID-related needs.
In addition, CFSOS pivoted its Neighbourhood Small Grants program, originally designed to support neighbourhood gatherings, and instead granted to projects that followed COVID safety protocols.
For example, new Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grants included a vibrant mural in Keremeos, hampers for young people and families with locally grown items and homemade face masks. Several projects focused on virtual events such as a five-part series, “Have Tea with Me,” where neighbours shared their cultural knowledge and traditions of tea ceremonies with one another online.
CFSOS also delivered a grant to the Penticton Salvation Army to help them hire more staff to put together the grab and go bags. The Penticton Salvation Army distributes more than 100 grab and go food bags per day.
Nearly $15,000 was given to support projects in 45 neighbourhoods throughout the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen in 2020.
“This year more than ever, neighbours wanted to work on projects that would support their most vulnerable neighbours or projects that would help reduce social isolation”, said Kim English, CFSOS development coordinator.
CFSOS also worked with Community Foundations of Canada (CFC) and the Government of Canada to distribute more than $230,000 in grants through the Emergency Community Support Fund, which provided support to local organizations addressing COVID-related issues with the most vulnerable population in the community.
“For example, we supported organizations who were delivering online mental health workshops, food distribution through the community and in the schools, as well as overdose prevention, to name just a few,” said Trudeau.
In addition, CFSOS also distributed nearly $45,000 in bursaries to 22 local students in the South Okanagan-Similkameen area. Trudeau noted that initially they weren’t sure what interest would be in the bursary program as CFSOS launched it when the students were still at home.
“We had a tremendous response and were pleased we could support students in their pursuit of post-secondary education in these challenging times,” she said.
CFSOS also managed two social enterprise granting programs, the Investment Readiness Program in collaboration with CFC and the Government of Canada and the Social Recovery Fund in partnership with United Way of the Southern Interior of BC and other local funders.
Over $274,000 was allocated through these two programs to local charities in the Okanagan Valley, to develop a business model with social purpose for their organization.
CFOS also granted over $50,000 to four local organizations working to advance gender equity in our communities through a variety of programs focused on women, immigrants, youth and the LGBTQ2+ community.
This past fall, CFSOS granted more than $97,000 to local registered charities in the region.
“We knew that charities still needed funding for their regular programs and operating costs, especially when COVID made traditional fundraising almost impossible, and we were happy to help support organizations doing important work in our communities,” said Trudeau, who added that although 2020 was an incredibly busy year it was also a rewarding one, in that we were able to provide direct and immediate support during uncertain times.