Whistler charities reeling after difficult year 

Social entrepreneurship may be part of the answer as groups forced to adjust to the economy

While there are some encouraging signs that the economy may be turning a corner, relief can't come fast enough for the Whistler charities and non-profits that are struggling this year with smaller donations and downsized grants.

Typically non-profits can see a surge in donations during the holiday season, as people feel generous and are also mindful of the Dec. 31 deadline for charitable donations on their tax returns. If that's the case this year, then Santa Claus can't come soon enough.

Carol Coffey, the executive director of the WAG animal shelter, says the year has been quite challenging.

"It's been a tough year, just looking at the number," she said. "If I compare our year until Oct. 31, the last month where we have our financial statements, to Oct. 31 of this year, our donations are down about 20 per cent. That's really significant for us and means we're down maybe $14,000."

To make up the difference WAG is holding more fundraising events than in past years. Usually WAG holds four fundraising events in a year. Some of the additional events include WAG's involvement in the opening of the new Prime Restaurant at the Creekside base and the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge. As well, WAG is hosting a second round of pet photos with Santa on Dec. 22 at the Hilton from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Coffey says the economy is the main culprit behind the reduced donations.

"That would be the feedback I've gotten from people, although it's really hard to say. We have had people give donations who have said 'sorry that it's not as much as last time, but times are tough.' People are still helping out, but are not able to give us as much as last year."

Another issue is the loss of coin boxes around town as new businesses have moved in. Many of those businesses are franchises, and are not allowed to have coin boxes, unless they are for charities supported by head offices.

Meanwhile, Coffey says the flow of animals never stops. In fact, they have had to care for more animals. Some relief is on the way, she says, as several prospective pet owners anticipate moving into their own homes in the future.

"We run into people who want to adopt but they're not allowed under their rental agreement, especially for cats. But they've purchased in Cheakamus Crossing or Rainbow and are waiting to move in," she said.

If you can't donate money to WAG, Coffey says the organization is always looking for volunteers to walk dogs, help out with fundraisers and take on other responsibilities.

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