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Grant money well spent in community

Groups report back to council on CEP spending

Council learned this week where tens of thousands of dollars in grant money was spent over the past year, getting a good sense of the value of their investment into the community.

Several community groups who received more than $10,000 in the municipal Community Enrichment Program last year reported their spending to council.

“It’s a new part of the process in keeping the dialogue going between the recipients and council,” said Mayor Ken Melamed at Monday’s afternoon meeting.

He also alluded to the financial pressures on council this year as it struggles to balance its 2008 budget and the potential for the CEP program to be reduced in size this year.

“We haven’t made the final decisions yet,” said the mayor.

In the meantime, it was all good news Monday as council learned where tens of thousands of dollars in grant money was spent in the last year.

Among other things, the Whistler Nordics used its $15,000 to hire a head coach and buy a new timing system to improve the quality of community events, said Tom Barratt, president of the club.

The latest Twoonie race saw the highest turnout ever last week with 117 participants.

“I’d like to think that both in tangible and intangible ways we’re repaying our grant in spades,” Barratt told council.

The Whistler Adaptive Sports Program has also been growing exponentially in the last year, seeing an 80 per cent increase in the number of lessons provided. Executive director Chelsey Walker also highlighted how the program has expanded from winter activities to summer activities for adaptive guests.

Of the $20,000 CEP grant, $12,000 was used to support salaries for instructors and the executive director position, and $8,000 went to support general operations.

“(We’re) completely at capacity in terms of our funding,” said Walker.

The Zero Ceiling Society also put its $14,380 in grant money to good use, selecting nine at risk youth from Vancouver to participate in its Work to Live Program. Some of those selected are working in Whistler-Blackcomb’s food and beverage department, and others in the snowboard school. Two applicants are working at Cypress Mountain.

Marc Zurbuchen, the program manager, said one of the participants had already won an Above and Beyond award from Whistler-Blackcomb.

After the winter season, the participants will go through a second training program for summer jobs.

Greg McDonnell, executive director of the Whistler Community Services Society, also offered council a “sincere thank you for the funding” it received last year. The $15,000 that went to the WCSS paid for the seven-week Interim Housing Program, designed to help young people new to the resort land on their own two feet. The money specifically paid for wages, rent, and hydro for the program, which put young adults in local bed and breakfasts and provided assistance in finding jobs and a more permanent places to live.

Of the 19 people that took part, McDonnell said 17 were what he would call a success.

The Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment also gave an update on its Sustainability Speaker Series, for which it received $18,500. Though just one speaker has come to Whistler since the grant money was awarded — former premier Mike Harcourt — several more speakers are being lined up for 2008.

On the list of those who may come are: authors Michael Pollan, Paul Hawken and Naomi Klein.

“We’re keen to bring these speakers to the resort soon,” said Carson from AWARE.

The biggest CEP recipient, the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association (WORCA), which received a $35,000 grant in 2007, did not appear at the meeting for an update due to an illness, but will make a presentation at a future council meeting.

Council gave out more than $200,000 in CEP grants last year after receiving 25 applications totaling more than $470,000.