A time to think about giving 

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Last Thursday Kerry and Ginny Dennehy presented a $500,000 cheque to Lions Gate Hospital for the new Kelty Dennehy Mental Health Resource Centre, which will be in the HOpe Centre at Lions Gate. The gift was just the latest effort by the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation in its efforts to prevent depression-related suicide in young people. To date the foundation has raised more than $4 million.

On Friday the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation announced contributions totaling over $170,000 to more than a dozen corridor charities and organizations. Last spring the WB Foundation awarded more than $200,000 to local initiatives.

These announcements followed Mountain FM's ninth annual Christmas Breakfast food bank and toy drive at the Westin on Dec. 6 and preceded Monday's Fast Food fundraiser at the sliding centre. Nearly 300 people paid $50 each to ride a skeleton down the track, raising more than $15,000 for food banks in the corridor.

On Friday and Saturday afternoons this week the Friends of the Whistler Public Library will be running an Adopt-A-Book campaign. Instead of buying another consumer item for a Christmas present people can "adopt" a book for the library collection on behalf of a friend or relative as a gift.

There is, of course, no shortage of needs. But as the list above suggests, there are people in the Sea to Sky corridor willing to give. And there are organizations filling important roles in the infrastructure of the community.

The financial statements of charitable organizations are posted on Revenue Canada's website. The site shows 30 charitable organizations with Whistler addresses, from AWARE to the Whistler Waldorf School Society. Total revenue reported by 29 of the 30 organizations (the Whistler Centre for Sustainability's information was not available) was more than $13.5 million. Total expenditures by the same 29 organizations were a little over $12.5 million.

Keep in mind that organizations have different financial year-ends, so some reports are for fiscal 2011 and some for fiscal 2012. As well, Whistler Community Services Society didn't report any expenditures but it did report more than $700,000 in compensation for its 26 full-time employees.

These numbers are by no means the sum total of all charitable giving and receiving in Whistler. Many Whistler people give to charitable organizations outside of Whistler and many people outside of Whistler give to local charitable groups. The American Friends of Whistler, for example, is a U.S.-based charitable organization that distributes funds in Whistler. And Playground Builders is a Whistler-based charity whose mandate is to build playgrounds for children in war-ravaged parts of the Middle East.

Still, $13 million handled by 29 charities is a significant part of the local economy. The largest single Whistler charitable organization, according to financial statements, is the Spo7ez Cultural Centre and Community Society, which reported more than $3 million in revenues and expenditures in 2012. Other charitable organizations with revenues and expenditures of about $1 million or more include the Whistler Arts Council, Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, Whistler Children's Centre Society and the Whistler Film Festival Society. Whistler Community Services Society also received more than $1 million in fiscal 2012 but, as noted above, did not report any expenditures.

The Whistler Blackcomb Foundation has raised more than $7 million in recent years, making it the largest fundraising organization in the Sea to Sky area. All of those monies have gone to charitable organizations in the corridor.

Charitable organizations can be as diverse as private companies. Some receive government funding; many don't. The largest expense for some is staff compensation, just as is the case for most businesses. For some charitable organizations one of their largest expenses is fundraising, while others may not spend anything on fundraising.

The question that eventually surfaces is whether charities are providing good value for the money they receive. That's a judgment call people can make after doing their own assessment of a particular charity.

Collectively, however, for approximately $13 million 29 charitable organizations in Whistler are providing a vast array of services, many of which are crucial parts of the social infrastructure. Imagine where Whistler would be without the efforts of the Whistler Health Care Foundation, Whistler Animals Galore or the Whistler Arts Council. The Whistler Food Bank is perhaps the best known of the Whistler Community Services Society's programs but the food bank is only one of many programs. WCSS also offers counselling, a community kitchen program, greenhouse programs, produces the Whistler Survival Guide and Whistler Welcome Week, organizes volunteers to assist people housebound by injury or illness, runs drug and alcohol education programs, operates the Re-Use-It Centre and the Re-Build-It Centre... and even that is only a partial list.

Taken as a whole, the charitable organizations in Whistler are significant contributors to the social fabric of the community and provide good value for money. But for their work to continue, and for the community to remain strong, these organizations are reliant on individuals giving what they can, be it time, money or materials.

Think about what it is that you value in your community, about who or what makes it that way, and consider giving to the charity of your choice.

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