Twenty-five years ago, Community Foundation Grey Bruce emerged out of a vision held by a few community-minded individuals who imagined an organization that would provide services to residents through non-profit groups and volunteer organizations.
Spearheaded by then-Mayor Ovid Jackson and his City Manager Lyle Love, a grassroots committee created the Owen Sound & Area Community Foundation which was incorporated in 1994. The theory was simple – donations made to the Foundation were formed into endowment funds, which were pooled together and invested by a money management company. The income earned each year was then distributed the following year as grants to charities and non-profit organizations for projects that would benefit local communities.
In the first year, donors contributed $12,000 in endowment funds. The first multi-year pledge was from Eva Leflar. In 1995, Percy and Kathleen Noble of Shallow Lake created the Foundation’s first named endowment fund. Ernestine McKenna began as Executive Director to start the Foundation and in December 1995, grants totalling $2,500 were presented. Assets including cash and pledges reached $300,000. The funds managed by the Owen Sound and Area Community Foundation grew steadily over the following years and, by December 2000, had reached $1,000,000 in endowed assets. Grants totalling $33,675 were awarded that year.
By 2001, the Board of Directors realized that the scope of the Foundation reached far beyond Owen Sound and Area so began the process to include all the communities in Grey and Bruce counties. The name changed to Community Foundation Grey Bruce in March 2003.
In 2008, a significant donation was made to the Foundation by founding donor Eva Leflar to start the Eva Leflar Donor Advised Endowment Fund. Because, Miss Leflar was the first to pledge to the Foundation in its infancy, she saw how her donations could benefit organizations in the future, especially those aiding underprivileged children. She continued to be a Foundation supporter until her death in December 2012 and afterwards left a bequest to her endowed fund.
Betty MacKay of Owen Sound had her lawyer draw up her will with provision to support charities in her community through Community Foundation Grey Bruce. After her passing in December 2007, the Betty Isobel MacKay Memorial Fund was established. That fund has also helped 65 other funds grow their asset base by way of an incentive Matching Program.
In 2013, as the result of a call to action by then-Governor General David Johnston, a Smart & Caring Community Education Fund silo was created to provide a sector for endowed funds supporting scholarships, bursaries or awards to Grey Bruce students. By 2016, there were 33 endowed funds supporting education. In 2017, the goal to add $1,000,000 in endowed education funds was met.
In October 2016, Community Foundation Grey Bruce presented its Vital Signs report measuring life in Grey and Bruce Counties on six topics: health & wellness, the environment, living standards, arts & culture, education and lifelong learning, and community connections. Vital Signs establishes the Foundation’s granting needs as well as provide priorities for our community to consider in the coming years. This year, the Foundation has released a Vital Focus on Youth Report which digs deeper into the “issue clusters” that Grey Bruce youth brought forward in our Vital Conversations held in late 2017.
Thanks to the generosity of our donors and fundholders, the Foundation’s 141 endowed funds now total more than 16 million dollars in assets. Each year the earnings on those funds generate grants that benefit all aspects of life in Grey Bruce. From grants that support local sports, arts & culture to projects that support underprivileged kids to capital projects that improve accessibility to community halls, the Foundation has a positive impact on the lives of everyone in Grey Bruce.
Since its inception, the Foundation has brought many informative speakers to the area including former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Hal Jackman; Canadian politician, David Crombie; Canadian diplomat and philanthropist, Stephen Lewis; Simon Jackson, founder of the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition; Owen Sound native and CBC news anchor, Heather Hiscox; Former Prime Minister, the Right Honorable Paul Martin; the Right Honorable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada; and, most recently, philanthropic businesswoman, Arlene Dickinson.
Community Foundation Grey Bruce has a goal to celebrate its 25th anniversary by raising $250,000 in donations for the Next25 Fund. The Next25 Fund will provide future grants to charities and non-profits with projects that address priorities that are identified in our Vital Signs Report, empowering the Foundation to grant strategically based on local knowledge for local impact.