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A place to give

Celebrating a quarter century of the Whistler Community Foundation

In the late fall of 2015, Whistler’s housing crunch was reaching a compact crescendo.

Excess housing stock lingering from the Olympic boom evaporated that year, leaving renters scrapping tooth and nail for space in the mountain resort.

Ashley Langlois and her boyfriend reportedly hit send on 67 emails, and were weighing the very real possibility of living in their car, before they finally landed a two-bedroom unit in the Alpine House building at the corner of Highway 99 and Alpine Way.

They were still very recent tenants when their new home erupted into flames on Nov. 10, 2015.

“We just moved in,” Langlois told Pique at the scene, despair flitting across her face as she stood on the road watching fire crews battle smoke and flames engulfing the old Whistler condo complex. “We just found this place, finally. It took us forever to find this place.

“There’s nowhere right now. We were so happy about it.”

Luckily, no one was injured in the blaze, though all 21 units were evacuated, and up to 80 Whistler residents displaced.

Jackie Dickinson, executive director of the Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS), remembers it well.

“The community really rallied together, because the majority of that complex was full-time employees living there that had lost their housing,” she says, recalling how Sue Eckersley, then on the verge of running another Cornucopia festival, helped utilize the conference centre for the displaced, and community members rallied with all sorts of donations.

“But our actual ability to transition them into other housing options, and help offset the cost of their rent, came in partnership with the Whistler Community Foundation (WCF),” Dickinson says. 

“We worked with them in partnership with their emergency fund to help facilitate this amazing transition.”

Some of the residents didn’t qualify for insurance support, which they needed to access new housing options, “and WCSS, and the WCF, or the Community Foundation of Whistler back then, worked together to help them,” Dickinson says.

“And I still see some of those residents on a local level, living in Whistler, and it’s like… it’s beautiful.”



That is, perhaps, one of the more intangible impacts of the Whistler Community Foundation, which is celebrating 25 years in 2024—giving Whistler residents a fighting chance when it seems the whole world is against them.

The hard numbers tell a more straightforward story.

Since 1999, the WCF has granted more than $4.33 million to local community organizations and non-profits, a product of more than $7.64 million in investments.

It manages 48 endowed funds, and coordinated 83 grants and scholarships in 2023—a year in which it also granted a total of $358,434.

An endowment fund is a permanent, self-sustaining source of funding, set aside for the long-term support of a charity or cause. Essentially, your donation becomes an investment fund, in which the principle remains invested, and the income, or a portion of it, is granted to charity.

In that way, those who care about Whistler are able to give back to it forever.

“When you see that $4.3 million [in grants], that is all a result of past donations. That is growing year after year, and only has more room to grow as we build out those endowment funds,” says Claire Mozes, CEO of the Whistler Community Foundation.

“So that’s permanent money flowing through our community. It isn’t annual fundraising, it isn’t going to go anywhere, and there is a lot of power in that.”

 According to former Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, then a sitting councillor, the council of the day wanted to create an environmental legacy fund built from the transfer fees Whistler was collecting for garbage management in the corridor.

“But we knew that we couldn’t bind future councils, and any fund we might establish could be spent by a future council literally with the stroke of a pen,” Wilhelm-Morden said at the WCF’s 20-year celebration. 

“So we thought we could create a permanent fund by making an endowment to a foundation."

To accomplish that, they decided to launch their own foundation. *

A steering committee formed following that first workshop, which used a $20,000-grant from council to organize it.

The first meeting of the Community Foundation of Whistler was held June 25, 1999, with Wilhelm-Morden serving as president.

“We spent the first year developing policies, such as the investment policy, the fund development policy, a granting policy and so on,” she said. “We interviewed and retained the fund investment manager. We applied for grants from the CFC and Vancouver Foundation. We developed a budget. Our goal was to have a solid administration and organization so that when we approached people for endowments we would have built-in credibility.”

The focus in those early years was on identifying and consolidating already existing funds under the banner of the CFOW, Wilhelm-Morden added.

“By the end of 2003 we had 25 founders who had provided $5,000 each in cash or services.  Those founders continue to be recognized,” she said. 

After starting with $20,000 in garbage revenues, 25 years later, the CFOW administers nearly $8 million in endowments.  

“To say it is a success is an understatement,” Wilhelm-Morden said. “I’m very proud to have been part of it, but it couldn’t have happened without the dedicated volunteerism of many people over the years.”



In recent years, the scale and scope of the WCF’s work has only broadened, powered by a small-but-mighty staff of three and a small army of 65 volunteers.

“I don’t know how we do it sometimes, actually,” Mozes says with a laugh.

“I think it’s having systems, and then it’s also having others to lean on outside of just our community foundation—there is a network of community foundations across Canada sort of pulled together by Community Foundations of Canada, and there are very good resources.”

That’s to say nothing of the wealth of knowledge and cooperation right here at home.

Outside of its economic mandate, the WCF also takes the lead on the Non-Profit Network, bringing together more than 100 individuals working in Whistler’s charity sector.

“We offer the opportunity to convene leaders and staff members, get together, talk out issues, think about solutions, just check in with each other,” Mozes says. “Sometimes everybody feels like they’re kind of working in silos, so it’s an opportunity for everyone to get together and connect.”

The group recently reconnected in-person after an extended hiatus, Dickinson says.

“It was so interesting, because I think we all felt that maybe the things we were experiencing in leadership in non-profits were our own, only to sit at that table and discover we’re not alone,” she says.

“For three years, we lost that human contact and that power of connection, and it hasn’t served us in non-profit work, in business work, and just in general in human connection, and so I’m excited.

“I truly love Claire Mozes and I am always inspired by her … the WCF is in a really great place under her leadership.”

Lizi McLoughlin, Zero Ceiling co-executive director and WCF board member since 2022, shared a similar sentiment.

“Just sitting in a room with other people who share your experiences and who just relate to the things that are happening for you, kind of makes you feel like, ‘Oh it’s not just me,’ right? But also that we have a real collective capacity to create change in this community,” she said.

“And while individually it might feel impossible, when you put this many likeminded, really driven people in a room together, you’re like, ‘OK, yeah, we can make this a place where people can thrive, and that there’s a sustainable community long into the future.

“So yeah—it’s so important in that way.”

Much of the WCF’s recent work is driven by its other big project of recent years: Vital Signs, the “community check-up” initiative that gathers and collates crucial local data, and facilitates important discussions on the most pressing topics of the day.

It is perhaps the most front-facing tool in the WCF toolkit, and the one community partners—Pique included—get the most mileage out of.

“We use Vital Signs all the time. I mean, that document exists in our waiting room,” Dickinson says.

“What I like about Vital Signs is, well, it’s vital. Like, people see themselves in that document, right? The things they’re experiencing around housing insecurity, childcare … when people are coming into our building, that document really recognizes that people see them, people hear them, and that they’re beyond a statistic.

“Data and storytelling together has the most impact, and that’s what Vital Signs does.”



That less formal, more human approach goes beyond Vital Signs.

“Even before I was involved with the foundation from a board perspective, Claire was always one of those funders that you could really reach out to and have an honest conversation with, and you could ask for support or you could ask for flexibility, and I think that’s really important, too,” McLoughlin says.

The WCF played a crucial role through the turbulent days of COVID-19, using its connections and relationships to channel government funding to non-profits in the sector.

“And they were also really flexible in how we used it as the needs evolved and things changed and everything,” McLoughlin says. “You know what it was like—it was crazy.”

In that regard, it could be said the WCF is at the forefront of a growing movement in the non-profit world.

“Things change, and the world moves really fast, and when you have a good relationship between a funder and a non-profit then you’re likely to get more done—if you trust it to people to get on and figure out solutions, but also to communicate,” McLoughlin says.

“And that’s kind of the direction that the foundation has been moving in, which I’ve really appreciated being a part of and seeing that start to happen.”

The added flexibility may be a newish development, but the humanity and connectivity at the heart of it all has stayed consistent from Day 1, Dickinson says.

“I think for me, what I’ve seen over the years that I’ve been a part of this, is that this foundation, even despite a name change or maybe changing the leadership or the people at the table, they’ve never lost sight of the human impact, and they’ve always stayed really connected,” she says.

She’s also seen the WCF’s immense direct impact, over and again.

“I know personally, first-hand, I’ve witnessed it. I’ve watched that person get, you know, from that emergency fund, a rent cheque that completely changed their lives, and supported them at a time where it felt like nobody else was,” Dickinson says.

“It starts at the beginning with some group of people believing in other people, and in my experience the WCF has always done that.”

One of the ways it does so directly is through its many scholarship and leadership funds—including one named in honour of Pique’s own founding publisher, the Kathy Barnett Memorial Leadership Fund.

“It made me feel quite seen—it made me feel like, ‘Oh, I am part of this community, and I can contribute to this community, and this community wants me here, and wants those contributions,” says McLoughlin, herself a past recipient of the fund.

“It helped consolidate, I guess, my role here, and my career in the non-profit sector here … it’s not always easy in the Sea to Sky to really build a career—it really made me feel like I could be part of that.”



For Mozes, being able to see the direct impact of the WCF’s work is a major motivation.

“Maybe I’m lucky that I get to sort of see hands-on when we do these grants, and the grant recipients send in their reports and then you can actually see those programs in action—you know it’s helping build a better place for all of us here, whether it’s for the people or whether it’s for the environment.”

The WCF also sees its 25th anniversary as an opportunity to shine a brighter light on all the opportunities it offers—of which there are many.

Whistler residents can make a charitable bequest in their will as a simple way to create their own lasting legacy in the resort. When they do, the WCF creates a special fund that benefits the community forever, becoming your personal legacy of giving.

(Talk to your lawyer or email [email protected] for more info.)

“I do think there is people out there that want a place to give, and if they knew about this opportunity, would be potentially new fund holders, and would want to get involved or volunteer on our board of directors, or on one of our grants committees,” Mozes says.

“It feels like sometimes we quietly work behind the scenes. I think we just need to be a little more vocal about [how] this is a really special opportunity for the community, and just wanting to make sure people know they can realize their philanthropic goals if they want to, and that we’re here.” 

Find more info and resources at

*An earlier version of this article stated the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation (WBF), another Whistler non-profit, is a private foundation. Founded in 1992 as the Blackcomb Foundation, the WBF has in fact always been a public foundation. Pique regrets the error.