More than ten years ago, a group of community-minded leaders imagined what a community foundation could do for Wood Buffalo. It was a time of falling oil prices, corporate cutbacks and fundraising challenges. They knew a community foundation could fill some of those gaps, but they also knew the timing wasn't quite right. To be successful, a community foundation must be based on a compelling vision for a different future, shared by community leaders, industry and local business. It also needs to be supported by a tightly woven fabric of social profits, framed by community leaders with the knowledge and vision to support a long-term, sustainable plan.
Early in 2016, the idea of starting a community foundation was put forward once again. Wood Buffalo's social profit sector had matured, but another economic downturn was affecting the sector’s ability to support the social, environmental, arts and other needs of the region. After the devastating wildfire of May 2016, the needs of the community became even more evident.
In November 2016 a small group of volunteers, supported by Community Foundations of Canada and the Suncor Energy Foundation, determined the time was right to start the Wood Buffalo Community Foundation. A Steering Committee was formed and Wood Buffalo Community Foundation was incorporated on March 29, 2017. We achieved charitable status a month later. The Wood Buffalo Community Foundation was formally launched in Fort McMurray on June 8, 2017.
The next phase of development is to build our endowment funds so the Foundation can begin granting funds to support community needs. Our initial fundraising goal is $10 million in endowed funds. We are off to a good start, with the Suncor Energy Foundation’s generous donation of one million dollars plus a match of up to $500,000 per year for the next four years.
While many of the leaders who envisioned a community foundation for our region over a decade ago are no longer working and living in Wood Buffalo, their connection to this place remains strong. That's one of the many things we learned in those heart wrenching days of May 2016. Fort McMurray and Wood Buffalo will always be our home.
There is no better way to show our thanks for all we have received as residents of this remarkable region. It's time for the Wood Buffalo Community Foundation to take root and grow.