Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner March 10, 2022
The CFGP disbursed $1.3 million to 80 charities in the area last year.
Jennifer Debues, Executive Director, Community Foundation of Peterborough, announcing 2021 grants
A sign on a bulletin board in the roomy office of the Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough attracts my attention. Four words: “All flourishing is mutual.”
It expresses the goal of the 191 community foundations across the country. In simple form, it says what they do: research the community's needs, and raise, from conscientious citizens, funds to help address these needs. It reflects the simple fact that we are social creatures living among many, and our safety and well-being is caught up within that of all.
“It is a kind of organized philanthropy,” smiles executive director Jennifer DeBues, who has greeted me.
Her enthusiasm for the work is obvious. She and her family, three children now in their 20s, chose Peterborough as a place to live 15 years ago. The “green” environment and the presence of higher education institutions attracted them.
She has worked for the Community Foundation for several years, and now is its energetic executive director.
”There are over 200 registered charities in Greater Peterborough,” she tells me. “Many come to us to apply for grants. There is also a tremendous amount of generosity here. We have an active board of ten members representing our community. We try to read the future and what it will bring in terms of challenge for people.”
In 2021, the Community Foundation was able to disburse $1.3 million to 80 charities in Peterborough and the surrounding area.
Planning for future needs takes special talent. Who could have expected that a global pandemic with all its hardships and all its revelations of inequalities would hit us, followed by Canadian civil unrest, an opioid crisis and a Russia, which breaks all its United Nations commitments by invading a neighbour?
There is also as we know, enormous reservoirs of goodness and resilience. Community Foundations relies on it. People from all levels of society who want to help, to donate, or to direct a donation where it will accomplish good, appear at the Foundation, largely drawn by word of mouth.
The first Canadian community foundation started in Winnipeg in 1921. The idea has deep roots in the west and has now spread through the country. The idea of self help and of redistributing resources has a strong appeal.
Community foundations have formed a national association, Community Foundations of Canada (CFC) that applies for grants and educates its members, these days via zoom sessions. I was interested to see one recent workshop called “The Female Face of Philanthropy.”
DeBues cites an example of the collaboration that has occurred with CFC. In 2019, through the federal government, they announced a new fund to address gender equality. The Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough convened a granting circle of nine local organizations working to advance gender equality. Participants listened to one another’s plans and decided on the rollout of the money, in some cases reducing their request in favour of another’s work.
“This participatory decision-making process is one way we put the community at the heart of our foundation,” explains DeBues.
The foundation raises about $1,000,000 a year, some to disburse, some to invest for the future. “We have donations as large as several thousands of dollars, and some as small as $50 a year,” says DeBues. “All are motivated by wanting to help their neighbours locally.”
As an example of the willingness to participate in good work among those with modest means, I met a woman at Fabricland this week buying metres of blue and yellow ribbon, plus safety pins. She was making lapel signs of solidarity with Ukraine for her family, neighbours and the nearby school. Similarly, the Community Foundation gives everyone a chance to take part. Heartening work in our downtown.
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