About 16 years ago a group of Bowen Islanders began working on the concept of creating a local community foundation – building a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds for community betterment. By December of 2002 we had qualified as a registered charity with Revenue Canada, one of about 200 community foundations in Canada.
Almost 14 years later we have managed to amass more than $1.2 million in assets. We are fortunate to be able to distribute annual grants from our endowments, in order to meet both the ongoing and emerging needs of Bowen Islanders. Federal, provincial and municipal governments are simply not able to provide many community services and benefits — and these services and benefits are also often beyond the capability or imagination of individual philanthropists.
This is where collective philanthropy has a significant role to play. Our volunteer board has been assembled to reflect the diversity of Bowen Island, and every month we sit down as a 10 member group to discuss our plans – how to best raise funds for the community, and then how to best use these generously donated resources for all of those who live in our community.
A couple of recent examples might be helpful. For many years there has been a desire to improve the attractiveness of Snug Cove, the entrance that welcomes both residents and visitors to our island. The recently completed Snug Cove Garden Gateway initiative, an inspired creation of attractive plantings and stonework, just on your right as you drive on to the ferry, was funded by a lead grant from the Foundation, and leveraged with a significant amount of donated time, materials and energy from members of our community. Another grant, provided just this year to the Museum and Archives Society, will also enhance the four corners in our cove, improving access to Seniors Lane and providing landscaping around our local museum and archives. It will build on Bowen’s longstanding heritage theme, with park benches and a much improved linkage with the Telus corner lot (and will continue to maintain a space for advertising community events).
We could go on with a few other examples – the funding of solar panels on the school that will have both a practical and an educational impact for those attending our local community school, and the Helping Hand Fund, which provides financial support for those Bowen Islanders who have fallen on hard times, due to illness, accident or emergency, and are in need of a “helping hand” from the community.
As we enter the final two months of the calendar year, we also enter an annual time of giving for those who are fortunate enough to be able to do so. Within the last week or so you will have received a letter from the Bowen Foundation, asking you to consider giving to a range of funds, and assuring you that any donation of $20 or more is eligible for a tax receipt. No donation is too small.
We are particularly focused this year on two issues – the Helping Hand Fund, as noted above, and the provision of additional scholarships for Bowen Island youth, about to leave Bowen and trying to make their mark at colleges, universities and technical schools. We already help out with a few scholarships on Bowen, thanks to the Knick Knack Nook, the Bowen Island Golf Association, the Maggie Cumming Bursaries, and the Aaron Sluggett Memorial Scholarship.
But we could do much more. The provision of scholarship funding is vitally important. We have seen the costs of post-secondary schooling increase markedly from the early 1970s to the present, at a pace much beyond that of inflation. It’s important that Bowen students who have the ability to succeed in a wide range of post secondary studies will actually have the opportunity to do so. One of the primary means for accomplishing this goal on our small island is to provide charitable funding for scholarships and bursaries. If you earmark your charitable contribution this year for our Youth Fund, you will be increasing the probability that a greater number of scholarships will be made available for our high school graduates.
But whatever your particular charitable leaning – scholarships, the Helping Hand, or any of our other funds — please consider giving to the Bowen Island Community Foundation this year. For further information, please visit our website at bowenfoundation.com. We promise that whatever your focus in giving, we will act as ethical stewards of your contribution. For Bowen, For Ever.