Abbotsford Community Foundation continues to grow

Endowments allow donors to leave a legacy.

Abbotsford Community Foundation executive director Susan McAlevy.

Abbotsford Community Foundation executive director Susan McAlevy.

Every three months, mothers-to-be from around Abbotsford gather in the Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) kitchen to laugh, learn and, most importantly, cook.

The women, many of whom are single and all facing challenges of one kind or another, attend the ACS’s Cooking With Moms program, which brings them together to make freezable meals for those busy days after baby is born. After just a couple hours in the kitchen, the women will have made four large meals that can help tide them over after giving birth. They’ll also have learned skills and strategies that can hopefully decrease the cost and stress that comes with feeding a young family.

“It’s a great time,” says facilitator Cindy Reisig.

It’s also just one example of how the Abbotsford Community Foundation (ACF), which funds the program, has grown and changed in its 35 years of existence.

The organization was founded in late 1979 with the aim of providing financial support for the area’s parks and recreation facilities. Since then, the foundation has expanded its mission to the point where it now boasts a $10-million endowment. Those who donate money can stipulate how it is used and the interest from the endowment provides funds for everything from school bursaries and scholarships to environmental organizations to health care charities and more.

Community foundations are based around the principle of endowment giving, in which money from a donation provides a capital base for annual gifts like scholarships.

With a simple agreement, philanthropists can set up their own funds at the foundation, with the money to be dispersed as the donor sees fit.

“It makes it relatively easy for people to have their own foundation in their community,” said ACF executive director Susan McAlevy.

And because that capital remains with the foundation permanently, an endowed gift can leave a long legacy.

“Even if you or your relative are no longer here, the foundation will continue on,” McAlevy said.

Last year the foundation, which manages the endowed scholarships through the Abbotsford School District and Mennonite Education Institute, helped give away 300 awards and $280,000 to local students. In addition to managing other organizations and philanthropists’ funds, the ACF boasts its own Smart and Caring Community Fund, from which it directs money to local deserving organizations. With the foundation’s 2014 Vital Signs project showing that child poverty is a major issue in Abbotsford, the ACF has targeted organizations and programs – like Cooking With Moms – that can help improve the situation.

Last year, the fund issued $100,000 to nine different organizations and programs. The ACF hopes to raise $300,000 by 2017. It will celebrate  its 35th anniversary with a gala in May, with all proceeds going to the fund.

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