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Under the Tree

Economic woes, the Grinch in the corporate machine, and a little bundle of hope



What to give? What to give? It’s the question of the season, and the answer has at last been revealed, stockings-over, with a traditional Boxing Day shopping frenzy set to resolve any dissatisfaction with gifts or giftees…

If only non-profits had such an easy solution.

As the business pages continue to throw ashes, wear hairshirts and beat the doomsday drum at the tanking economy, corporations, community endowment funds and private philanthropists are posing another question: whether or not to give at all.

On December 16 the Community Foundation of Whistler’s board members met over troubling balance sheets and elected not to gift any grants from their endowment funds for 2009 in an effort to protect the capital which has seen an 18 per cent loss in the market.

The collapse of the BCE privatization deal also saw some major potential gifts of securities evaporate. “That was particularly unfortunate, given the recent financial climate and the increased need for as many donor dollars as possible,” says Kerry Chalmers, Executive Director of the Foundation.

The municipality is making noises that the Community Enrichment Program fund will be allocating less to community groups in 2009, and the Live Nation contribution to Pemberton has all been allocated, with a return of the Festival and its Coldplay-fuelled injection to non-profits looking increasingly unlikely.

As for corporate giving, adopting a “philanthropy aesthetic” is just another marketing line item that’s on the chopping block, along with Christmas parties and sponsored athletes, all the more vulnerable for its lack of measurable ROI.

Food banks and front-line social service providers are reporting that demand is up, even as they’re enduring break-ins and robberies and funding uncertainties.

The situation report, then, reveals a somewhat shriveled Christmas Giving Tree under the tarnished star of 2008.

But on closer inspection, though the piles of presents may be smaller and less blinged out this year, there is cause for hope. There is reason for thanks. There is even evidence, dear Virginia, that Santa may be alive and well and wading back across the iceberg-melt to the North Pole.

Charity begins at home

Just 50 hours after executing a major lift evacuation procedure, the members of the Blackcomb Ski Patrol were back on deck to manage another emergency – rallying to a fundraising benefit for fellow patrollers Heidi and Neil Wynn.

The benefit took place at Merlin’s on Thursday, December 18, and was initiated by the Wynns’ fellow patrollers on Blackcomb with the goal of generating enough funds that Heidi would not have to work this winter, and could focus her energies on her family and on spending time with Neil, who has been suffering with cancer for four years.

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