For 25 years First West Foundation, the philanthropic partner of First West Credit Union, has been making an impact in communities throughout the Okanagan and B.C.
Although the name has changed since the foundation’s creation in 1996, the commitment to helping communities thrive has remained steadfast.
What started as a $200,000 donation in 1996, has now grown into assets of more than $18 million. These assets, managed by the foundation, enable the annual distribution of hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to registered charities across B.C.
Some of the donations made to communities in the Okanagan include $138,000 donated to registered charities working to address food security and basic needs for youth, families and seniors in May, 2020, as charities struggled with the financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The healthy, sustainable growth we have experienced at First West Credit Union and First West Foundation over the past 25 years has enabled us to increase our community support while giving us the flexibility to help our charitable partners when they need it most,” said First West Foundation executive director Susan Byrom. “These dollars are having a real impact in our communities, and we are thankful to First West Credit Union, its employees and members for their generosity in providing us the resources and support needed to fund the important work of our community partners.”
Peter Podovinikoff, a well-known figure in the Canadian credit union system, was instrumental in creating First West Foundation through his role and continues to serve on its board of directors.
“Our members supported the creation of the foundation back in 1996 because they believed that our profits —as a credit union — should serve a greater purpose,” Podovinikoff said. “This decision spoke to the democratic and community force that has, and will continue to, drive credit unions forward for generations to come.”
To celebrate this momentous occasion, First West Credit Union made a special $25,000 donation to the Peter Podovinikoff Scholarship Fund, a fund housed through the First West Foundation which provides Kwantlen Polytechnic University students with scholarship opportunities.
Since 2006, the Peter Podovinikoff Scholarship Fund has granted $25,253 to students in need.
“Early on in my career, I discovered that communities will only be successful if you invest back into them,” Podovinikoff said. “I’m humbled to have been a part of the foundation’s growth over the years and that our original vision of helping build vibrant and healthy communities has come to fruition.”
The foundation uses income generated from its endowments to help create resourceful and resilient communities. Since its inception in 1996, the First West Foundation has donated over $7 million in grants to local community groups and projects.