As Alberta’s economy languishes and funding streams dry up, local non-profits say initiatives like Field LLP’s Community Fund Program become all the more important.
Now in its fourth year, the western Canadian law firm’s initiative is dishing out $75,000 to a number of local community initiatives across Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
“It’s a real tough environment right now in Alberta. The economy is tough and as you probably know, oil and gas is suffering very badly which trickles down to everybody,” says Diana Segboer, the executive director of the Pet Access League Society — one of this year’s recipients.
“So it’s a tight economy and it’s an amazing gift for us to be able to bring this program to the kids.”
Field LLP, which has offices in Calgary, Edmonton and Yellowknife, has seen the pool of applicants grow to a record 122 projects this year, up from 105 applications in 2015.
Doreen Saunderson, the firm’s managing partner, says that the number of applicants has likely grown in part because more organizations are finding ways to meet their needs.
“Organizations are having a harder time finding funding and more and more people are identifying needs and creating programs to try to fill the needs that are observed now too,” she says.
“So I think it’s both that there are new ideas coming out of the woodwork and a greater need for funding for those programs.”
The firm recently announced five winners of the competition from southern Alberta, where there was a 23-per-cent increase of applications this year, and a total of 71 applicants.
Field LLP gave five winners a total of $30,000 — with $10,000 going to the grand prize winner and $5,000 to each runner up.
Among them was the Adapted Bike Program, a Calgary Cerebral Palsy Association initiative, which won the grand prize and provides customized bikes for children with disabilities.
Sheralee Stelter, the executive director of Cerebral Palsy Kids and Families, says the prize money will go towards buying bikes that could end up helping 50 to 60 children over the years.
“This donation is crucial to getting kids on bikes,” says Stelter.
Other prize winners included the Pet Access League Society’s pet therapy program for schools, as well as an outdoor classroom for an independent Calgary school, the Phoenix Education Foundation.
“It is absolutely essential,” Larry Leach, the school’s business manager says of the prize money. “The project wouldn’t have gone on without it. We should be able to fund the entire project.”
The other projects that rounded out the five winners this year were the Women’s Centre, which supports women in times of crisis and provides them with personal care items and food, and Souper Kids, an initiative that produces soup for local emergency shelters.
The program selected its winners based on a combination of online voting and the decisions of a panel of judges made up of Field LLP lawyers, clients and community members.
A further $30,000 was disbursed to initiatives in northern Alberta and $15,000 was given to programs in the Northwest Territories.
For those who did not get funding this year, Saunderson says the program will reboot again next year in the spring.
Saunderson says funding these kinds of projects has always been part of the firm’s culture.
“Our firm has always supported those organizations that our members belong to, but also been involved otherwise in giving in the community. Despite the recession, which affects all businesses in Alberta, we’re some of the fortunate ones that are still employed and still in business and still functioning and it’s important for us to give to the community on a consistent basis,” she says.