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‘Friends’ hopes to open fundraising channels

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Tax credits offered for donations to American Friends of Whistler organization

A bold new fundraising venture has just got off the ground in Whistler.

It is hoped it will provide lasting and meaningful financial support to all types of charities and non-profit organizations in the resort.

Called the American Friends of Whistler, it is the brainchild of Simon Levin, a U.S. tax attorney who has a second home in Whistler.

"Many (U.S. visitors and second home owners) are not aware how much the community means to them," said Levin from his New Jersey office.

"We are going to educate Americans that there are wonderful things happening in Whistler.

"Many may not realize what is going on at Millennium Place, for example. Or many may not realize how important a new library might be to the community."

The "Friends" organization allows U.S. citizens to donate to a foreign non-profit and get an income tax receipt.

Until now, if Americans donated to Whistler groups – and many have – they didn’t get any tax credit.

"I felt that we could get larger contributions from Americans if they could get an income tax deduction," said Levin.

As a tax lawyer Levin works for several large charitable organizations in the U.S. and is keenly aware of all the steps that must be taken to set up an organization such as American Friends of Whistler.

"I’ve been really thrilled with the response so far," he said.

"I started as a lone voice in the woods… and it was over a period of a year to two years… before something happened.

"I am very excited and very excited about the group of people who have come together to support it.

"I am looking forward to great success with it. I am optimistic. If we can help the community that is where the rewards will really be."

American Friends of Whistler is based in Seattle and a majority of its board is made up of Americans.

Currently there are eight board members but president Jeff Harbers hopes to increase the number as people get involved with the organization.

"We want to have a very active board but also a lot of people so they really make a commitment," he said.

"To me the real purpose of American Friends of Whistler is to introduce Americans to Whistler and get them to join in the community and get to know people in the community.

"Obviously the thing that will happen form that is people will want to start investing in Whistler and understanding what the issues are, the challenges and the opportunities."

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