It’s not easy to build something from nothing, but in the case of the Community Foundation of Northwestern Alberta, that’s exactly what a group of citizens from Grande Prairie did more than 25 years ago.
Vince Vavrek was among that group from Grande Prairie who attended a conference about community foundations in Saskatoon and decided such an organization would be a great fit for their community.
“Grande Prairie didn’t have a savings account that would be for the entire community,” he explains. “There are other organizations that do this but they are specific to their organization. Community foundation is to support community from top to bottom.”
It took nine months to get charitable status and a few more years to get the ball really rolling and establish the Community Foundation. “We really started with nothing,” he says.
Since being established in 1996, the Community Foundation of Northwestern Alberta has grown to a charitable organization with just under $10 million in assets, a recognized leader in the Community Foundation movement and a leader in building community.
For the last 19 years, Tracey Vavrek has been at the helm as the CEO of the foundation. Tracey knew Vince had been involved with the foundation and was familiar with it through the Kids With Cancer group that had received funding through the foundation.
Encouraged by many in the community to apply for the job when it was posted, she did some deep diving and was amazed at the impact community foundations have.
“It’s so humbling to see how far it’s come in that time,” says Tracey, who recently announced she would be retiring from the position. “We’ve had support from community, partnerships developed, trust from community, amazing support from corporations, individuals, volunteers. It’s just amazing to see the impact of the foundation and the millions of dollars that have gone back into the region as a result of the foundation.”
As a founder and leader of the organization, Vince and Tracey are also very strong supporters of the foundation, having established the Vince and Tracey Vavrek Family Fund.
“I’ve always been a believer if you’re going to go out and ask people for money, time, energy, you better be walking the talk,” says Vince.” Lead by example. It’s just the right thing to do. If it is something you believe in why wouldn’t you support it? The idea that you can make a difference, not only now, but forever that’s really intriguing.”
For Tracey, giving back to the community that has provided so much support for their family over the years was a natural move. “We wouldn’t be who we are today without this community,” she says.
The couple established their fund as a Community Impact Fund with the foundation; meaning grants from the fund are used where the need is most.
“The idea of the Community Impact Fund and why it was so appealing to us is that as our family continues to nurture and grow and live in this community. We don’t know what’s up and coming but the Community Impact Fund will respond to that. Recognizing that Community Impact Fund is future focused and our donations are going to be hard at work being relevant forever. That’s a big thing to be proud of,” she says.
For Vince and Tracey, being able to give back and seeing the impact the community foundation has had means everything. “And it’s not about our names being on those grants. It’s about knowing that those grants are going out to the community and impacting our neighbors, our friends, our colleagues, the general population that we may never meet, but it’s impacting the community,” says Tracey.
The fact that that impact will continue long after they are gone is another driver in their continued support of the foundation
“To be able to know that when we leave this world, it will be better, that’s a legacy that we are proud to be able to leave,” she says.
“There is no area of the community that the foundation does not support,” adds Vince reiterating, “Community built all of us. We wouldn’t be who we are without what our communities have given us.”
You can make a difference in our community – not only for today but forever. When you make a donation to the Vince and Tracey Vavrek Family Fund, we invest that gift into a permanent endowment fund and the original gift is never spent. Earnings from your gift are distributed in our community to support all needs in the community. Donations can be made online here – https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/42979 or by calling the Community Foundation at (780) 538-2820.