Mayoral candidates clash over idea of ​​community foundation

Matthew Shoemaker says the charity will improve residents’ quality of life, while Robert Peace calls it a ‘slap in the face’ for local charities struggling to raise their own funds.

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Mayoral candidate Robert Peace said his opponent’s idea of ​​creating a community foundation is a “slap in the face” for local charities.

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Shoemaker said earlier this week that he plans to start a community foundation as a registered charity to improve the quality of life in Sault Ste. Married.

The foundation would accept donations from donors and distribute grants to qualified recipients in areas such as health, education, sports, arts and culture, social services and the environment. Comments on how contributions should be used will be accepted by donors.

“The foundation will not operate under the direction of the City of Sault Ste. Marie, it will be independent, with its own board of directors and volunteers to provide advice,” Shoemaker said. “He’s going to be responsive to the needs of the community and the direction provided by donors.”

But Peace wonders why a candidate would pitch the idea as part of an election campaign if the city of Sault Ste. Marie will not administer the program or provide seed funding for the program.

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“I don’t see the value in any of this and wonder why he’s announcing something in which the city will have no part to play,” Peace said.

Peace said his review of community foundations would mean donations would go to an out-of-town operation with more than 10% overhead for administration.

“It feels like a punch in the eye for local charities struggling to gain new public and commercial donors, let alone compete with a new outside entity,” Peace said.

“The bottom line is that we take our local dollars and then we have to reapply to have projects done in our own community,” he said.

But that’s not true, said Robin Sutherland, executive director of the Algoma Community Foundation, whose Sault Ste. Mary is already part of it.

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The Algoma Community Foundation operates independently and its administration costs are paid for with new money that comes into the community, for example through Green Shield Canada.

Peace fears the money will be taken away from current charities.

“I would rather speak with our local charities and see how the city can help them and at what cost before encouraging an outside organization to administer what we are able to do locally,” he said.

Shoemaker said the community foundation concept was first developed by the Community Adjustment Committee and was a recommendation from FutureSSM.

“I looked at other communities. Sudbury has a community foundation and Algoma has one, based in Desbarats, and I just learned that Sault Ste. Marie is one of them,” he said. “We may not need one of our own if there is one that covers our area and we can create synergies with him,” he said.

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Shoemaker says community foundations are common across Ontario — and in Northern Ontario — and are a tool that can be used to improve the quality of life in Sault Ste. inhabitants of Mary.

“It seems to me that Mr. Peace is only looking for the headlines of my ideas,” said Shoemaker. “Perhaps instead of criticizing other candidates’ ideas, he should come up with his own ideas.”

Sutherland said an extensive consultation process took place in 2018-19 across the region, which led to the formation of the Algoma Community Foundation.

The registered public charity works with urban, rural, remote and First Nations communities from Wawa to Spanish, including Sault Ste. Marie, and is a member of the national network of Community Foundations of Canada.

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It focuses on capacity building, grantmaking, information gathering and sharing and is the result of a NORDIK readiness study that was commissioned before the pandemic.

“Before our establishment, Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma were the largest underserved areas in Canada,” Sutherland told the Sault Star.

The foundation is now governed by a board of directors chosen from across Algoma.

Since he started, Sutherland said more than $1 million in new funds has flowed into the community to serve the area through various programs.

The Algoma Community Foundation was launched with a joint fundraiser with the Sault Area Hospital that raised $18,000 for organizations on the front lines of COVID.

It has provided more than $300,000 to 28 charities as part of a federal government COVID relief fund, ranging from mental health and addictions organizations, Indigenous services, food support, support for newcomers and others.

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He is currently working with the Sudbury Community Foundation to establish an investment readiness program to help organizations participate in the growing social finance sector.

Sutherland said another model being used sees the creation of an endowment fund where donors have a say in where and how the money is used.

But if Sault Ste. Marie is establishing her own foundation, it would be a duplication of services and would not follow the extensive research and contributions that were used to create the Algoma Community Foundation, she said.

“This research was clear that the foundation needed to reach the entire district, not just an urban area,” Sutherland said. “We worked hard to make this happen, with many volunteers, including First Nations people and youth.

The foundation is currently working to develop a Green Shield Canada mental health fund.

Sutherland said she spoke to 25 groups and organizations across the district to identify gaps and issues that needed more funding. It is expected that the program will be released this fall.

“This is really good news. There has been a lot of hard work to make this happen and we are really helping all of the communities in Algoma,” she said.

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