Okanagan charities get funding boost

The First West Foundation's Valley First Community Endowment is providing funds for 15 initiatives and organizations.

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The First West Foundation is giving away $115,031 this year to charities in the Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson valleys from its Valley First Community Endowment.

In all, 15 grants have been awarded to a variety of organizations delivering programs or projects enhancing individual and community resiliency, particularly in the area of hunger and food security issues throughout communities served by Valley First.

“There are so many worthy initiatives and organizations and I’ve seen firsthand the difference these grants can make,” says Seline Kutan, executive director of the First West Foundation. “Helping local charities deliver much-needed community programming is very rewarding.”

Kutan says the vision of the First West Foundation is to help create resilient and resourceful communities through effective grant-making. The endowment’s grants are aimed at achieving that vision and enhancing local communities.

Kamloops’ Interior Community Services was one of the charities benefiting from a $10,000 grant this year for their educational garden. The funding will be used for completing an irrigation system, installing shale pathways, as well as adding a garden shed, harvest table and arbour to the site. The 5,200 square foot garden will be used to deliver programming to approximately 1,200 people annually.

“One of our goals this year was to create an educational garden with the intent of increasing awareness about food security,” says Dawn Christie, community resources manager for Interior Community Services (ICS). “We also want to encourage local, healthy food choices and promote knowledge and skills. Together with the First West Foundation, ICS has been able to meet this goal by diversifying our programming to complete a communal garden.”

Christie says the garden is open to the public and helps individuals gain the necessary skills to choose, grow and prepare healthy food and encourages stronger ties to the local community.

The 15 organizations and initiatives supported by the Valley First Community Endowment this year are:

  • Vermilion Forks Elementary School – Afterschool Club
  • Hands in Service Canada – Sustainable Nutrition through Social Justice
  • Oliver Elementary – Farm 2 School Program
  • Cawston Primary School – CPS Food Program
  • KVR Middle School – Breakfast Program & School Garden
  • Food Action Society of the North Okanagan – Everybody Cooks
  • Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs – Knowledge & Community Kitchens
  • Interior Community Services – Educational Garden
  • Penticton & District Community Resources Society – Nutritional Enhancement Project for Penticton Childcare
  • Canadian Mental Health Association – Meals Matter: Nutritional Resources, Education and Training Program
  • JUMP, in association with Royal Inland Hospital Foundation – Community Drop-in Centre & Community Kitchen
  • South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation – Patient Care Tower at Penticton Regional Hospital
  • Okanagan Similkameen Neurological Society – Valley First Teaching Kitchen at OSNS
  • Penticton & District Multicultural Society (South Okanagan Immigrant & Community Services) –  Homework Club
  • Whitevalley Community Resource Centre – Breaking Bread: Building Capacity in the Community