Wood Buffalo Community Foundation hits the ground running

On June 8, leaders in social profit, government and business sectors came together in Fort McMurray, Alberta to celebrate the launch the Wood Buffalo Community Foundation.

During its first-ever event, the WBCF got off to a great start and awarded nearly $50,000 in inaugural grants to organizations focused on youth, multiculturalism and Indigenous heritage. What’s more, the Suncor Energy Foundation agreed to match the first $500,000 raised by the new organization, ensuring the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (which surrounds and includes Fort McMurray) will have the support it needs to address complex long-term issues.

But long-term thinking has always been a strength of the WBCF: it took about 10 years of planning and hard work to give birth to the organization itself. In fact, it wasn’t until last fall, when the needs of the region became more evident, that the group of community leaders who’d first talked about starting a foundation knew the time was right. Suncor Energy Foundation’s past director Cathy Glover, a guiding force in the decade-long undertaking, approached Maureen Cormier Jackson—who had called Fort McMurray home for 22 years, and currently resides in Calgary—to head up the long-awaited Wood Buffalo Community Foundation.

“Given the state of things in Fort McMurray — the market downturn, the wildfire — I was looking for a way to give back to the community,” says Cormier Jackson, who is now Chair of the WBCF. “I just felt that it was the right thing for me to do.”

Since Wood Buffalo Community Foundation’s first meeting last December, its Board of Directors has been working diligently in partnership with Community Foundations of CanadaEdmonton Community Foundation, and Suncor Energy Foundation to give residents of Wood Buffalo the means to contribute to the future of the area.

“In a community, especially like Wood Buffalo, we don’t know what its future needs are going to be, but a community foundation is there for forever,” says Andrea Dicks, Vice President with Community Foundations of Canada. “It’s there to address the future needs that we can’t even anticipate at this moment in time.”

Ensuring the Wood Buffalo Community Foundation can address the region’s needs for generations to come is just one aspect of Cormier Jackson’s vision. “We’re looking to the future to make sure we cover off the entirety of the needs within the community,” she explains. “There are always gaps. One thing that community foundations can do is work with other organizations to make sure the entirety of the community’s needs get funded.”

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