Whistler's Americans make a difference 

Non-profit organization turns 10, as donations mount to $1 million

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The Whistler community would be roughly one million dollars poorer if not for its American friends.

Those friends care about the community so much they've been working to make it a better place for years.

That credo is at the heart of the American Friends of Whistler (AFOW), a U.S. non-profit organization that is celebrating its 10-year milestone this month.

AFOW president Rod Rohda takes a certain satisfaction in the knowledge that Whistler's American friends have pumped up local social services, local search and rescue services, the health community and the museum, to name just a few beneficiaries, through its generous charitable donations.

"A million dollars in a community the size of Whistler does make a difference and all of us involved with it feel very, very good to be able to see that it's making a difference and being appreciated by the people where the money is going," said Rohda from his Massachusetts home.

In its 10th year it will, Rohda is certain, meet the million-dollar mark. To date, to be precise, $967,000 has been donated. Most of the donations pour in during the last five weeks of the year.

Founding AFOW board member Bill Kunzweiler can hardly believe 10 years has passed since a small group banded together to create the non-profit organization.

"I don't think anybody had that expectation," he said, of raising $1 million in the last decade.

"Where I think it's been most valuable is it exposed Americans to the inner workings of the community, some of the needs of the community, and it's been a conduit for Americans to have a positive impact on the community.

"Not only have they contributed money but they've contributed a heck of a lot of positive energy."

There's a core group of donors, though they are always interested in new members.

One of the things Rohda is proud of is the fact that 75 per cent of the contributions are from people who have contributed before.

"That says to us they recognize what we're doing and recognize that their money is being well spent," said Rohda.

At its March meeting the board made a seat available for the president of the Association of Whistler Realtors.

Ray Longmuir now sits on the AFOW board.

"It's our hope and expectation that (the appointment) will help raise awareness of the AFOW with the realtor community, which in turn will raise it when it is talking to Americans who are considering buying in Whistler," said Rohda. "Because one of the things they can say is there's really quite an established American community in Whistler."

For more information on the American Friends of Whistler go to www.afow.com.

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