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CFOW announces first round of environmental grants

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AWARE was the big winner with funding for three different programs

AWARE was the big beneficiary as the Community Foundation of Whistler announced its first grants from the three year-old Environmental Legacy Fund on May 8.

"It’s an exciting situation for us," said CFOW vice president John Tolmie. "The municipality gave us this money to hold in perpetuity, and this will go on for several years. It follows the Whistler Sustainability project and The Natural Step framework. It show the recognition we have that Whistler and the environment are synonymous."

The Environmental Legacy Fund was created three years ago by the municipality using dumping fees collected at the Whistler landfill. The municipality transferred $600,000, plus two years’ interest, to the fund in 2000, and another $300,000 earlier this year.

The Environmental Legacy Fund is one of four funds the CFOW administers. This year the CFOW approved $37,500 for environmental projects. The Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE) was the big winner, receiving $14,000 for their community composting project, $11,000 for the Whistler Sustainability Community Launch Project, and $1,500 for the Wetland Keepers project, which is part of the organization’s Whistler valley bottom and greenbelts initiative. In addition, the CFOW will contribute another $13,500 in ELF funds towards Wetland Keepers in 2002 and 2003 – the $1,500 in seed money will be spent on research to determine what wetlands need the most help, and the $13,500 will be spent on wetlands rehabilitation.

The Jennifer Jones Bear Foundation will receive $11,001.45 for their Neighbourhood Bear Watch program and Bear Smart Business Sticker program.

Finally, the Alta Lake School will receive $300 for bringing biodynamic agriculture/gardening speakers to a public speaker session hosted by AWARE.

To qualify, applicants had to meet a set of standards set by the CFOW. The foundation would only fund up to 50 per cent of any project, and all applicants had to be both volunteer-driven and registered charities under the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. It also helped that the applicants were willing to work together on projects.

"After looking at the applications, it became clear that there was a bit of overlap," said CFOW board member Garry Watson. "The Whistler composting project with AWARE and the biodynamic speakers for the school, for example. They got together to take a collaborative approach. The money would go to Alta Lake School to hire the speakers and AWARE would host them as part of their monthly speaker series.

"We’re not trying to achieve competition between applicants, but to support a combination that really serves the best interests of the community."

Sylvia Dolson, director of the Jennifer Jones Bear Foundation, said that all environmental initiatives overlap in some way. "The community composting project will help out the bears as well by discouraging backyard composting and helping to teach people respect for the animal and the environment. All of our goals are interrelated."

AWARE president Mitch Rhodes thought it was appropriate that Whistler’s garbage will ultimately provide the catalyst for environmental projects in the valley.

"I think it’s a fabulous avenue to raise money. It’s processed from municipal dumping fees, to the community foundation, to environmental agencies, where it will go back to community and the environment," said Rhodes. "This was just the first year. I’m sure that in the coming years, people will get more creative in the work they can do on the ground for the environment."

Shannon Smith of the Alta Lake School, which provides a curriculum based on Waldorf schools, says she is excited to work with AWARE. "The philosophy of healing the whole earth is core to our school program, and core to everything (students) are taught. Hopefully one day we’ll have a schoolhouse and a biodynamic garden right alongside each other, fertilized by municipal compost."

The Community Foundation of Whistler is one of 80 community foundations across Canada. Community foundations are different from private foundations, which are required to spend 80 per cent of the funds they raise each year or pay taxes on the outstanding balance. Community foundations acquire significant capital donations and issue grants from the interest on the capital. The CFOW has more than $1 million in four funds and is commited to spending the interest accrued in each account.

With the ELF on its feet and starting to fulfill its mandate, CFOW president Nancy Wilhelm-Morden says the foundation will concentrate more time on its other three funds; the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation Fund, the Whistler Scholarship Fund, and the Community Fund.

"We are starting to seek donations and bequests from members of our community that are interested in creating a legacy," says Wilhelm-Morden. "We want to stress that the Community Foundation of Whistler is not just the environmental fund."

The CFOW expects to announce scholarship winners within the next month.

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