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Anonymous donor gives million-dollar gift to Shuswap small businesses

Shuswap Community Foundation tells city council of surprise donation

An anonymous donor has gifted more than $1.5 million dollars to support small businesses and entrepeneurs in the Shuswap.

Roger Parenteau, manager of the Shuswap Community Foundation, came to Salmon Arm council on Sept. 22 bearing the good news.

He first described the work of the foundation, which receives donations from community members and then builds them into endowment funds. Those funds are not spent but are invested.

A portion of the return on those investments is given as grants to organizations in the Shuswap. “That’s the last 28 years of the foundation,” he said.

Parenteau explained that in June the federal government passed Bill C19, which allows community foundations to make grants to provincially registered not-for-profits instead of only federally registered charities.

“Barely a week later I was contacted by a member of the community who was very interested in creating a fund that would benefit small businesses and entrepreneurs in the Shuswap.”

Parenteau contacted Rob Marshall, executive director of Community Futures Shuswap, and Lana Fitt, manager with the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society. They determined grants could be issued to the two organizations under Bill C19.

“Our donor came through with a $1.6 million donation to the foundation, which is going to be put into our investment endowment and will begin issuing grants to these two organizations to the benefit of small business within the Shuswap,” Parenteau said.

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Both Marshall and Fitt also addressed council. Fitt acknowledged the donation. “It is really difficult to find words that are adequate enough to express the appreciation that we feel for a donation of this magnitude. It’s a gift for our community.”

She said the new fund will help the two organizations develop new start-up programs as well as programs to support expanding businesses.

Fitt also thanked the Shuswap Community Foundation.

“This organization has really created a conduit, not only to receive this gift, this donation, but also to invest it and strategically grow this fund for our community and then to responsibly distribute it so it will remain an opportunity for the Shuswap in perpetuity.”

Marshall said it’s expected the new fund will provide about $80,000 per year in new funding, with the first annual contribution being disbursed in August 2023.

He said it’s early days but he expects a portion of the funds will be used individually by the two organizations and a portion jointly.

Some early ideas for “strategic pillars” that fit with the prescribed goals of the jobs endowment fund include “entrepreneur training, workforce development, business start-up and expansion support, marketing and innovation,” Marshall said.

Both Mayor Alan Harrison and Coun. Kevin Flynn expressed their appreciation.

“As a small business owner who deals with small business owners and entrepreneurs, this is amazing news. So thank you. And thank you to that donor who won’t let himself or herself be named,” Flynn said.

Added Harrison: “$1.65 million is a huge and very generous contribution. And it’s good to know that in the hands of the Shuswap Community Foundation it will carry on forever, bettering business opportunites in the city.

“And I think the two conduits you’ve chosen to work with couldn’t be any better.”

Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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