Local Rotary Club disperses Community Grants Program

April 7, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

Five local not-for-profit organizations are getting a boost in funding.

Rotary Club of Orangeville Highlands announced last Thursday the recipients of their Community Choice Grants program, who are receiving $1,000 each.

The program works by encouraging people to vote for their favourite non-profits on the Rotary Club’s website, and the three with the most votes receive a $1,000 grant. The two other recipients are personally selected by the Rotary Grants Committee with a view of supporting less-well-known charities serving Orangeville.

This year’s winners of the program by vote are Diabetes Canada D-Camp (693 votes), Josh Project Foundation (613 votes), and Achill Choral Society (549 votes), while Branching Out Support Services and Dufferin County Multicultural Foundation were chosen by the Rotary.

There was a total of 3,135 votes this year, which is an increase from the 2,500 recorded last year, and it was exciting to watch the increase in community involvement, according to Michele Fisher of the Orangeville Highlands Rotary Club.

“I love how much the community gets engaged with it, watching the social media activity and people tagging their friends, asking their family, their co-workers, anybody to help,” she said.

“We were really energized by the whole process and seeing how people got involved.”

There was a small battle for the third-place spot with a few different organizations being neck and neck with the vote.

Achill Choral Society ultimately came out on top, which Fisher said is great since the not-for-profit isn’t a registered charity, so they’re less able to get grant funding through other channels.

It’s important to note the top three organizations who received the most votes this year are different from last year, when Ontario SPCA and Humane Society Orangeville, Streams Community Hub, Alzheimer Society of Dufferin came out on top. Orangeville Highlands Rotary Club also chose Fiddlehead Care Farm and Active Lives After School Dufferin to receive the $1,000 grants in 2021.

“The grants aren’t just going to, to the larger players or to the same people,” Fisher said. “The community is making sure that they’re distributed around.”

When looking at the two organizations that the Rotary Grant Committee selected themselves – Branching Out Support Services and Dufferin County Multicultural Foundation – Fisher noted the club’s reasoning in their decision.

“The Dufferin County Multicultural Foundation actually just got their registered charitable status when we were in the process of moving to the voting stage,” she said.

“For us, we really liked their goals of breaking down barriers and building community, and connecting people from diverse communities – fostering inclusion and equity. We thought that it merged really nicely with Rotary’s goals locally and internationally, and we also knew that the $1,000 to a brand-new organization would probably mean a lot.”

Fisher also shared the Rotary’s inspiration for selecting Branching Out Support Services, which is a social enterprise that supports adults with neurodiversities and disabilities in downtown Orangeville.

“They do excellent work, but as a social enterprise, they haven’t been able to get grants through the normal channels, and they also haven’t been able to get some of the COVID business grants because as a social enterprise, they’re in between those two things. So we’re really pleased to be able to support them and their new kitchen project.”

Branching Out is in the process of launching the CommonFare Kitchen, where adults with special needs help in making, packaging, and delivering maple kissed granola. The kitchen is also going to be used for employment skills training and monthly workshops that are open to everyone.

Meanwhile, Fisher noted some of the positive outcomes that come through the Rotary’s Community Choice Grants.

“What we’ve seen both times that we have run the Community Choice grants is how much our community cares and how much they have their ear to the ground for what the needs are,” she said. “Both last year and this year, we have learned about not-for-profit programs that we did not know existed in the community.”

Fisher told the Citizen the Rotary Club of Orangeville Highlands looks forward to running the program for its third year in 2023.

Depending on how much money is fundraised, she noted the Rotary Club may look to expand the program, providing larger grants to the recipients.

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