Whistler’s American friends give back to community 

The organization is looking for new members as it begins its second year of fundraising

After a year doling out money to local charities, Whistler’s American friends are gearing up to do more good work around the resort in the years to come.

The American Friends of Whistler met on Saturday, Dec. 27 at Millennium Place for an update on the charity’s work during its first year and a half in business, as well as an update of what’s been going on in the resort over the past year.

"We want to make sure you participate and are involved in this community," said Mayor Hugh O’Reilly, who is one of the volunteers working with the AFOW.

"This is a vehicle for Americans to connect with the community."

O’Reilly said Whistler’s relationship with Americans who own second homes here is challenging because though they pay taxes on their property, they cannot vote in municipal elections.

In July 2002 Simon Levin, an U.S. tax attorney who has a second home in Whistler, dreamt up the fundraising venture as a way to stay connected to the community. The AFOW was born.

Roughly 30 people were on hand at Saturday’s meeting for updates on the Olympics, the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan and initiatives at Whistler-Blackcomb, as well as information about the charity.

AFOW allows U.S. citizens to donate to a foreign non-profit and get an income tax receipt.

It is also a way for members to meet fellow Americans and stay connected and involved in the resort.

The key is to continue to raise money from its members throughout the year.

"For us to donate one of the most important things I have to do is put the squeeze on you," said Jeff Harbers, president of the board of directors, at Saturday’s meeting.

Harbers said not only are the donations important but getting Americans involved in the organization is also critical to its success. He also put out the call for new board members to join AFOW.

Of the people who were at Saturday’s meeting many asked questions about the Olympics and the future of Whistler-Blackcomb.

"Things are changing in the ski business," admitted Doug Forseth, senior vice president of operations at Whistler-Blackcomb, a fellow American who was at the meeting to give an update on the company.

The future of the business lies with the long distance traveller he said. Whistler-Blackcomb has to figure out who those people will be in the future and what they will be looking for in their ski holiday.

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