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Our Community: United Way, Victoria Foundation to spread $1.6M in grants

Local charities are set to receive $1.6 million in Emergency Community Support Fund grants for programs supporting vulnerable citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic.
photo Victoria Foundation
Victoria Foundation, along with the United Way Greater Victoria, will allocate the funds to 60 programs in the capital region, the Gulf Islands and north to Cowichan.

Local charities are set to receive $1.6 million in Emergency Community Support Fund grants for programs supporting vulnerable citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic.

United Way Greater Victoria and Victoria Foundation will allocate the money, based on feasibility and need, to 60 programs in the Capital Regional District, the Gulf Islands and north to Cowichan.

The funding can cover a variety of functions, including staffing and/or emerging needs, especially related to transitioning to digital services and platforms.

“Our staff all breathed a sigh of relief when they got the news … this has a huge impact on our bottom line,” said Ron Rice, executive director of the Victoria Native Friendship Centre. “We could not do all that we do without support from funders such as United Way and Victoria Foundation, nor could we continue to provide the services we do to urban Indigenous families, elders, the disabled and the disenfranchised.”

The grant awarded to the Victoria Native Friendship Centre will enable staff who work with at-risk children and youth to transition to virtual programming.

The funding will also fill food hampers for vulnerable Indigenous elders and families.

Victoria Foundation CEO Sandra Richardson said funding provided via the grants will help to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the sector and the vulnerable populations they serve.

She said the Victoria Foundation is pleased to work with the federal government and United Way to provide the support, adding: “We look forward to continuing to work toward ensuring our community comes out of this crisis stronger, healthier and more resilient.”

“Civil society and the programs and services they offer are absolutely critical to the wellbeing of our community,” she said.

Other grants being allocated will go toward digitizing an opera performance and bringing it to schools alongside curriculum aid, haircuts for women via a salon subsidy so they feel more confident during a job interview, an intergenerational support program that matches Indigenous youth with vulnerable elders, and a free online literary festival.

Mark Breslauer, CEO of United Way Greater Victoria, said the creativity of the grant submissions was inspiring.

“One of our main goals is to support the not-for-profit sector as it pivots to meet changing community needs and service delivery models,” he said. “It’s a new world. Our focus is razor sharp: to help our community get through COVID-19, as we recover and rebuild.”

He said the United Way is grateful for the federal government’s funding, adding: “We thank them for entrusting in us to get the job done.”

The government’s $350-million Emergency Community Support Fund is administered across the country in partnership with United Way Centraide Canada, Community Foundations of Canada and the Canadian Red Cross.

For more information, go to or

Art councils ponder digital strategies

Six Vancouver Island and Gulf Island arts councils are working with an international arts consulting firm to look at research and readiness around creating digital strategies.

The group includes the Ladysmith Arts Council, Hornby Island Arts Council, Cowichan Valley Arts Council, Salt Spring Arts Council, Comox Valley Arts and The Old School House in Qualicum Beach.

They were awarded just over $212,000 under the Digital Strategy Fund, administered through the Canada Council for the Arts.

The group is working with Nordcity, an international arts consulting firm, on the first phase of the grant, starting with a look at each arts council’s funding, human resources, programing, marketing and technology.

The grants come at a time when arts organizations nationwide are grappling with how to survive without audiences.

Cycle of Life Tour to raise funds for hospice societies

Supporters of Vancouver Island hospices are still getting on their bikes and pedalling hard, despite the postponement of this year’s Cycle of Life Tour fundraiser due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Organizers have put together the 2020 Challenge, in which they were encouraged to commit to riding 200 kilometres in their own community and to using twos and zeroes in their riding and fundraising goals.

For example, they could ride 200 kilometres over two days, set a goal of raising $2,020 or ask 20 friends to donate $20 or $200.

Funds raised from the 2020 Challenge will go toward hospice societies in Campbell River, Comox Valley, Cowichan Valley, Nanaimo, Oceanside, Salt Spring Island and Victoria.

A finish-line celebration takes place virtually on July 20, but fundraising will continue. The Cycle of Life Tour has raised more than $1 million since 2011 for end-of-life care in communities across Vancouver Island.

For more information, go to

Submit names to fall concert of farewells

The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association is asking Canadians to submit the names of loved ones who have died during COVID-19. Their names will be streamed during an online concert in the fall as part of the association’s National Bereavement Day campaign, set for Nov. 15.

The pandemic has seen its share of heartbreaking stories of families who were unable to say goodbye due to restrictions on end-of-life visitations. As a result of these restrictions, many people who have lost a loved one have not been able to say goodbye, visit and in many cases, have a proper funeral or celebration of life.

Canadian artists from every province and territory will perform, including Valdy, John McDermott, Tara Shannon, Alan Doyle, George Canyon, Larry Gowan, Rose McKenzie, Florent Vollant, Kalen Wedge, Eileen Laverty and Ray Legere.

The deadline for name submissions is Aug. 17 at The concert will air on Nov. 15. For more information, go to

Grandmothers’ big virtual ride

For the first time, women age 55 or over can join members of the Victoria Grandmothers for Africa on this year’s annual Cycle Tour — a virtual cycling tour of sub-Saharan Africa between Aug. 17 and Sept. 13.

They will be assigned to one of six teams that should each be able to accumulate 3,000 kilometres over four weeks, for a total target distance of 18,107 kilometres — the equivalent of cycling through the 15 sub-Saharan Africa countries supported by the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Stories from initiatives undertaken by the charitable foundation in each country will be shared with cyclists during the four weeks of the virtual tour.

For the last 13 years, a group of 30 grandmothers has pedaled from Campbell River to Victoria over three days as part of the Victoria Grandmothers for Africa’s Cycle Tour, the organization’s largest annual fundraiser.

This year, they’ve switched to a virtual event for safety reasons.

Participants can ride any kind of bike to accumulate the distance, including an e-bike or a stationary bike.

Deadline for registration is July 31. For more information, or to register, go to

Summer Fishing Challenge aimed at youth

Those 15 and under are encouraged to explore B.C.’s freshwater fishing during the Summer Fishing Challenge, an initiative by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C.

In B.C., anyone under 16 years old can fish recreationally in rivers, lakes and streams without a licence or stamp.

Participants fill out a fishing journal (or an online journal), recording each fishing trip and taking a photo during that trip. Photos can be of multiple trips to the same location or to different locations.

Youth who catch a fish on each of five different fishing trips can also enter to win a Blue Fox Fishing rod and reel from Luhr Jensen. There will be 200 prizes.

“We wanted to celebrate the sport of freshwater fishing, which is a lot more than just catching fish — it’s about enjoying the outdoors and visiting special places that are often close to home,” said Jessica Yarwood, outreach co-ordinator for the Freshwater Fisheries Society. “While everyone loves to catch a fish and most trips start with high hopes, sometimes the fish just don’t bite. But those trips are still memorable and we wanted to celebrate that.”

Anglers are reminded to comply with the B.C. Freshwater Fishing Regulations and practise physical distancing.

The Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C. is a private, not-for-profit organization funded mainly through freshwater fishing-licence revenues.

Entrants can download a form to fill out and return by email or fill out the online form. Deadline for entries is Sept. 8. Parent or guardian consent is required.

For more information, including contest rules and the fishing journal, go to