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Giving back this Giving Tuesday

In a year when Whistler non-profits have either seen skyrocketing demand or their fundraising abilities significantly diminished, giving local is essential this holiday season
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The Whistler Community Foundation has been helping local non-profits like the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program share their stories with the community ahead of the holiday season. PHOTO COURTESY OF WHISTLER ADAPTIVE

As British Columbians get set to stick closer to home this holiday season, the head of Whistler’s social-service provider is hoping the community considers doing the same with their charitable dollars this Giving Tuesday and beyond.  

“People will ask me who they should give to, and I always say give local, because I think the best thing you can do is support local,” said Jackie Dickinson, executive director of the Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS). “Your dollar goes farther when you support local non-profits, just like you would support local businesses.”

Called a “global day of giving” that was created as a response to the retail frenzy of Black Friday, the eighth annual Giving Tuesday is set for Dec. 1, and this year takes on an even greater significance as non-profits have either seen demand for their services skyrocket in the pandemic, such as WCSS, or their fundraising abilities significantly diminished.

“It’s a little hard to speak for everybody, obviously, but from the response we’ve seen from our granting recently, I would say [local non-profits] are still very much in need,” said Claire Mozes, executive director of the Whistler Community Foundation (WCF), which has, since March, distributed close to $160,000 in emergency funding to local non-profits, supported in part by the federal government and Community Foundations of Canada. (Donate here.) 

Much of the focus through the pandemic has been on frontline-oriented organizations like WCSS, and rightly so. Whistler’s social-service provider is bracing for a spike in demand this winter, in what’s already been a record year. In May, 57 per cent of those seeking support from WCSS identified as being in crisis, and more recently, in October, the organization facilitated the highest number of one-on-one counselling sessions in any month since it began tracking in 2014.

“It gives me shivers when I think about it, in a good way and a way that’s saying, ‘Hey, the need is there and we’re here to help and support,’” Dickinson relayed. “That’s the job we’ve signed up to do and we feel really lucky that the community has trusted us.”

For Giving Tuesday, WCSS is raising money for its Kids on the Move, Kids Camp, and Kids Art funds, subsidized programs that support financially restricted children to go to camp, take part in sport and recreation, and the arts.

“It’s an interesting time, because we’re kind of in this place with these public health orders where some of these things aren’t moving forward or are changing and looking a little different,” Dickinson said. “There’s a lot of value in ensuring our kids stay connected, and that might mean a dance class over Zoom, and there is still a cost to that. There is still an important opportunity for kids to continue to learn, connect and experience.”

After a wave of donations in the spring that were “integral for us to keep going,” Dickinson said WCSS is also helping spread the love this holiday season to other deserving non-profits.

“We’ve been fortunate because our work is frontline and people see the direct benefits, or have been on the receiving end, that we sometimes receive that support and it is important to acknowledge the other non-profits: Arts Whistler, AWARE, Zero Ceiling, all of these organizations that are also doing a lot of good work,” Dickinson said.

Non-profits that don’t work directly on the frontlines of the pandemic have been put into a tough place, Mozes said, being heavily reliant on donor support while also not wanting to detract from the enormous need social-service organizations have seen since the onset of COVID.

“They’re being very careful about how they’re asking [for funds] right now because they understand how important it is for the basic needs to be met in the community,” she noted. “The mental health supports, the food bank, the things that are really going to keep us going are so important, so, actually, I think a lot of them have backed off on their fundraising for that purpose. It’s really this tricky situation.”

The WCF has been helping non-profits get their stories out to the community through a new series on its website that profiles organizations that have recently received emergency funding. So far, WCSS, Zero Ceiling and Whistler Adaptive have been highlighted. Read them at whistlerfoundation.com.

“It’s to actually … get a better glimpse into what’s actually happening for that not-for-profit, but also for the people that are accessing their services,” Mozes explained. "We’re definitely trying to give that other picture because I think people sometimes either tune it out or they hear it, and unless they are actually accessing some of these services themselves, they don’t really think about what it means for others. It doesn’t occur to them, it’s just the reality of it. We all have our lives that we live and we don’t often think about the bigger picture unless we need some help.”

Pick up this Thursday’s print edition of Pique for more on this story.

For a list of local non-profits, with links to their websites, visit business.whistlerchamber.com/list/category/community-non-profit-organizations-39.