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What are you doing for your community?

By Rebecca Taylor

Presenting the cheque to Ms. Seal's class at Hugh Beaton

KidStart Presentation for Ms. Seal’s Kindergarten class at Hugh Beaton

I was recently hired as the temporary administrative assistant at the WindsorEssex Community Foundation.  Needless to say it was surprising to learn what a community foundation actually does, but most surprising was what projects they have done and what projects they fund.  They have spent years beautifying the riverfront with the Peace Fountain, Bert Weeks Fountain, the Peace Beacon, and Charles Clark Square.  Each year they also fund community projects through their Community Impact Grant (CIG) program and the KidStart Mini-Grant program with the school boards.

Being at the foundation for the CIG and GECDSB KidStart program processes has given me more respect for the administrative side of getting a grant ready and implementing it, but it has also given me a warm fuzzy feeling about the direction our community is headed in.

KidStart Presentation for Ms. Thwaites and Ms. Antovski’s Kindergarten classes at W. G. Davis School

KidStart Presentation for Ms. Thwaites and Ms. Antovski’s Kindergarten classes at W. G. Davis School

I have attended KidStart cheque presentations for the last two days, and the enthusiasm and passion these kindergarteners have for their projects and their community astonished me.  I could really see the joy these kids felt being able to help other people with their projects.  I feel inspired by these children to play a role in making our community an even better place to live.  I challenge each and every one of you dear readers as well to see how you can get involved and help Windsor and Essex County become a better and more caring community.

To learn more about the WindsorEssex Community Foundation’s grant programs, please click here.

A daily reminder of Random Acts of Kindness

Every day when I leave the Community Foundation’s parking lot, I am reminded that random acts of kindness abound. Our parking lot opens on to Ouellette Ave. by the railroad underpass. For most times of the day, merging into traffic is manageable. However by the afternoon rush hour, traffic is bumper to bumper, stop and go, with no opportunity for cars entering to merge into the traffic stream.

So I pull up to the edge of the line of traffic, expecting to wait forever, but within the span of one or two cars passing, a driver slows down and motions for me to slide into the stream ahead of him or her. It never fails – every day I see people helping other drivers with simple, random acts of kindness that speed up their ride home.

About 100 meters down the road, there is another traffic bottleneck, so I look for the opportunity to pay it forward.  I slow down and look for the opportunity to let someone move into traffic ahead of me.

On November 1, we will celebrate Windsor’s 4th annual Random Act of Kindness Day and I will gladly tell the server at the Tim Horton’s line that I am buying coffee for the driver behind me in hopes that the person receiving it is one of the countless drivers who are so courteous on our stretch of Ouellette Ave. on busy afternoons. I can hardly wait!

Glenn Stresman

What’s in Store for Philanthropy in 2012?

What’s in Store for Philanthropy in 2012?

Times they are a changing,” Bob Dylan.

This past year it seems that we have discovered philanthropy.  We always knew that people gave to causes they cared about.  We always knew that we could help others by donating our time and skills.  We always knew that there were organizations focused on charitable works.  But it seemed that the charitable sector was always the quiet one.

This past year, charitable giving has attracted much more attention.  I have seen articles covering a broad range of topics including: the future of volunteerism in Canada, the need to legislate salaries for executives in the not for profit world and, how to protect yourself from solicitations by unscrupulous charities.  As a measure of increased interest in the sector, The Globe and Mail published an excellent series of articles in October about the evolution of philanthropy.  The Globe now runs a regular column written by Craig and Marc Keilburger.

Where in times past we decided on which charities to give to based on our own experiences, we now trust organizations like Charity Intelligence Canada and GuideStar (US) to tell us which charities that ask us for donations are the most effective.

So why are times in the charitable sector changing?  I will put two reasons forward.  The first, I suggest, is that the need for the work of the charitable sector is more visible that it ever was before.  The effects of the economic troubles together with the reporting of the many natural disasters that have overtaken us in the past several years have put the need for charity vividly before us.

The second is that we now realize how big the charitable sector in Canada is.  Charity has become big business and continues to grow.  The upside to the growth is that there are more funds available for the sector to work with.  The downside to the growth is that the sector attracts more people preying on our good intentions.

So what is to become of the charitable sector?  For those of us who work in charities, we know that we need to be more efficient and more effective as we look to what we do.  Our donors expect us to be duly diligent.

However, I also see that we are still being driven by our sense of responsibility to contribute to the wellbeing of those around us.  Charities will continue to be the solid third pillar in our society.

So with deference to Bob Dylan, my final thought is this.  While times today continue to change, the core philanthropic values that have motivated us in the past remain in place.  We will continue to support the many good works the sector does.

Best wishes for 2012!


Glenn Stresman

Glenn Stresman is the Executive Director of the WindsorEssex Community Foundation and has over 20 years experience in both writing and evaluating grant applications.

A Grant from the Heart

NailsThe often quoted proverb, “For wont of a nail, a kingdom was lost,” reminds us that a small act can influence large events.  The writer of the proverb uses the story of King Richard III riding into battle unknowingly with his horse improperly shod. For that reason, the king’s horse loses a shoe, the king falls in battle and the kingdom was lost, all for the wont of a nail.  The point made is that small things often carry great importance.

In our Community Impact Grant Round this fall, one of the smallest grants that we provided is the proverbial nail that grows in importance far beyond what one would expect.

This fall, our grant review committee selected The Infant Memory Box Project to receive funds totaling $1,000.  These funds will purchase materials that high school students use to construct small wooden boxes – containers for precious remembrances for the parents who have lost infants and toddlers.  Whereas before the hospital staff and grief counselors from CMHA had to make do with only a plastic bag to present to the grieving parents, they now have a finely crafted wooden box, reflecting the care and concern of the young craftsmen and women who have fashioned it.

From time to time, people ask me how we decide which applications to fund.  My answer is that the grants review team members look for the potential impact that the project will make.  Experience has taught these skilled volunteers to look past the numbers and focus on how the project will build our community.

Each year, approximately 65 infants and toddlers die in hospitals in the Windsor-Essex area. The students and teachers from GECDSB high schools that craft these boxes to be used in the most trying of times do so because they care deeply about those around them who are struggling to cope. This is the essence of philanthropy. The Community Foundation is honoured to provide the funds for such a worthy project.

For more about this grant and others that were awarded this fall, go to our Grant Stories page.


Glenn Stresman

Glenn Stresman is the Executive Director of the WindsorEssex Community Foundation and has over 20 years experience in both writing and evaluating grant applications.

The Right Tool for the Job

In 1917, Julius Rosenwald, president of the Sears Roebuck Company, used $70 million of his personal wealth to form the Rosenwald Fund. Rosenwald chose not to endow this fund, but rather decided that all of the $70 million was to be used for charitable purposes so that by the year 1947, the Fund would be gone. Rosenwald explained that he wanted to avoid “the tendency to bureaucracy” and other shortcomings that he saw coming with permanent endowment funds.

Some people today agree with Mr. Rosenwald and donate substantial amounts of money to establish funds that are to be used up in a set period of time. This year’s Federal Budget changed rules governing foundations to make these types of gifts easier for foundations and charities to set up and manage. Perhaps this is why we see more articles recently in the media advocating for self-depleting funds like the Rosenwald Fund.

But not everyone agrees with Mr. Rosenwald’s theory that permanent endowment funds automatically bring bloated bureaucracy whose sole purpose is “to prolong their existence indefinitely.”  As proof of the vibrancy of the custodians of permanently endowed funds, we can turn to foundations such as the Winnipeg Foundation, celebrating its 90th anniversary this year and continuing to support the Winnipeg community vigorously and with great positive effect.

So, should you endow your philanthropic gift in perpetuity as many Canadians have done? Examples of these permanent endowments would be: the J. W. McConnell Family Foundation, the Metcalf Foundation, and the W. Garfield Weston Foundation.  Or should you set up a self-depleting fund as Mr. Rosenwald did?

My advice is this. Since you have the option of using either means to achieve your philanthropic goals, I suggest that you use the one that will work best. Is there a specific problem that you want solved? If so, then set up a fund that will be finished when the task is completed. If your cause is one that will continue in perpetuity, then set up the fund to match. You even have the option of using both types of funds if you have the financial resources to do so.

Great Place to Leave A Legacy logoI have one more suggestion for you. Since community foundations have the expertise in establishing the types of funds that will best achieve your philanthropic goals and since they have the widest range of options to offer each donor, why not use them as the stewards of your funds? Remember, community foundations are great places to leave your philanthropic legacy.


Glenn StresmanGlenn Stresman is the Executive Director of the WindsorEssex Community Foundation and has over 20 years experience in both writing and evaluating grant applications.

When I Least Expected it – Kindness Appeared

When I least expected it – A Random Act of Kindness Appeared!

For the past year, I have been encouraging people to consider doing random acts of kindness. I have read many reports detailing the good things that have happened through the program we put in place last November. Yet I was flabbergasted when I was the recipient of the very thing I have been advocating.

Allow me to explain. I had just settled down for a five-hour flight on Air Canada. I was in the window seat in the last row of the crowded plane – seat #37A. When the flight attendant brought the snack cart by, I thought that I would buy a bag of cashews and offered the attendant a $5 bill as payment.

“Sorry sir,” she said. “Credit cards only.”

I thought to myself that this was no way to do business. Why should I use my credit card for such a small purchase? So I decided that I would protest by not buying anything. Then my seatmate took out his credit card and bought me a bag of cashews. When I least expected it, a random act of kindness appeared!

In retrospect, what so surprised me was the result of this simple act of generosity. For the rest of the flight, we had an extended conversation about many things. This gentleman went out of his way to make my day better and I was touched by it in a very positive way. To use and old adage, he made my day.

Random Act of Kindness Day logoWe are just starting to plan for Random Acts of Kindness Day 2011. While we use a single day to highlight caring, I am pleased to report that generosity happens every day in any number of good deeds done when people least expect it. Count me as one who has experienced it personally!



Glenn Stresman

Glenn Stresman is the Executive Director of the WindsorEssex Community Foundation and has over 20 years experience in both writing and evaluating grant applications.





Check out these sites for more information on Random Act of Kindness Day:

The Community Foundation – A Great Place to Leave A Legacy!

WECF Communications Coordinator, Mike Morency, came across the tag line, “A Great Place to Leave A Legacy” while doing some research in preparing our annual “Leave A Legacy” ad. The slogan is now part of our ad.Great Place to Leave A Legacy logo

I was taken by the phrase when I first saw it a couple of weeks ago and it continues to resonate with me; a mark of its effectiveness. I am excited to use it because it is a great reminder that we need to plan well when we draft our Last Will and Testament.

Your final instructions in your Will are exactly that – final. So, we need to take into account as many of the variables as we possibly can when we make those final instructions. Here’s an example. You are passionate about helping cure a specific disease, so you establish an endowment fund for treatment for those afflicted by the disease and research to find a cure. What if the disease is cured? Impossible, you say? How about tuberculosis and all of the TB sanitoriums that used to be around — all gone because of better treatment options. I’m a Rotarian and our vision is to eradicate polio – we are so close. If it happens, what to do with endowment funds established strictly for the eradication of polio?Rotary "end polio" logo

How then can your final instructions establish a legacy that will be flexible enough to handle an ever changing world? Establishing a donor advised fund at a community foundation will do that. As the world changes, the fund advisor you appointed in your Will continues the conversation with the Community Foundation, ensuring that your legacy fund’s annual grants really do make a difference in the WindsorEssex community of the future. That is why the WindsorEssex Community Foundation is a great place to leave a legacy.



Glenn Stresman

Glenn Stresman is the Executive Director of the WindsorEssex Community Foundation and has over 20 years experience in both writing and evaluating grant applications.


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