Environmental Learning Centre awarded $1 million 

Credit union foundation lobs one-time grant to outdoor school

The North Vancouver Outdoor School is the recipient of the largest grant ever awarded by the North Shore Credit Union.

The Squamish-based outdoor school will receive $1 million from the North Shore Credit Union Foundation, which will go toward construction of the school’s Environmental Learning Centre.

The award was announced at a presentation in North Vancouver Wednesday evening.

The multifunctional building will be the heart of an outdoor environmental and cultural education program operated by the North Vancouver School District and expected to reach more than 10,000 children, students, teachers and adults each year. The centre, which is expected to be complete by late 2009, will offer workshops, seminars and outdoor learning experiences that focus on environmental stewardship, cultural history, science, arts, community building and personal growth.

“We’re ecstatic to receive this award,” said John Lewis, superintendent of the North Vancouver School District. “The funds donated by the North Shore Credit Union will help us build an iconic gateway facility that will greatly enhance the capacity and programming at the North Vancouver Outdoor School.

“The Environmental Learning Centre will provide a lasting legacy for future generations to reconnect with nature and build a better community through human understanding of our unique and biologically diverse environment.”

The NSCU board of trustees selected the outdoor school from a short list of three non-profit groups following 140 expressions of interest last fall. In judging the finalists the trustees were looking for a meaningful community project that demonstrated the physical, environmental and/or financial wellness of the local communities the credit union serves.

NSCU Foundation Chair Sue Adams said the selection committee’s decision was not an easy one.

“We were both honoured and humbled with the task of making such an important decision,” she said. “While all three finalists have extremely worthy projects that the North Shore Credit Union would be proud to support, ultimately we selected the North Vancouver Outdoor School’s Environmental Learning Centre because of the innovative programs it offers to all ages to foster sustainability and environmental and cultural education. We believe the centre will make a significant impact in our communities and we look forward to partnering with the Outdoor School in years to come.”

The two other finalists were the Lions Gate Hospital foundation, in partnership with Family Services of North Shore, Lions Gate Hospice Society and Vancouver Coastal Health, to build the North Shore’s first free-standing hospice for terminally ill patients receiving end-of-life care; and West Coast Alternatives Society, to expand its treatment facility for adult substance misuse and the children affected by it.

The one-time $1 million grant represents the culmination of more than a decade of charitable giving by the NSCU Foundation and is the largest single donation ever made by the credit union. The Foundation has now been replaced with a new charitable giving program that the NSCU says will continue to support local community initiatives, but allow more flexibility in identifying and responding to the needs of non-profits and charities.

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