August Newsletter 2

A Message from the Chair Deb Gill 

Have you ever tried to hang wallpaper by yourself? It’s hard to do and almost impossible to do well! But having a partner to help hold the rolls of damp paper, adjust seams, and smooth the walls – that makes all the difference.
    In my first few months as Chair of the Foundation, I’ve learned a lot about the power of partnership. It started with the Stay-at-Home Gala, a fundraiser held on May 2 to raise money for COVID-19 relief. The Foundation and the Rotary Club of Grand Bend partnered on the project. It was a mad dash to plan the event and contact potential donors and sponsors, all in less than three weeks. I worked with people I had never met before, meeting regularly over Zoom. It was exhausting, exhilarating, and ultimately very successful. Could the Foundation have done it alone? Absolutely not. Our Rotary partners were the key to our success, and I’m very grateful to them for joining hands with us.
    I’ve also seen the power of partnership in our ad-hoc COVID-19 grants committee, which includes board members, Rotarians, and members of the community. Our goal was to get funding out as quickly as possible to the charities that needed it most. Led by Chair Jim Jean, we worked well together, often having lively discussions (again over Zoom) but always reaching consensus. You’ll read here about some of the grants we made.
    The Foundation has so many wonderful partners – the charities we support, our dedicated board members, local governments, and the list goes on. I’m grateful to each and every one. I’m especially grateful to the most important partners of all – you, the people who support us with your donations. Thank-you.

When It Counts: The Foundation responds to COVID-19
As of July 15, 2020, the Grand Bend Community Foundation (GBCF) had granted more than $100,000 to charities on the front lines of the pandemic. The funds for this effort were raised in a few weeks during the spring lockdown.
    “We have an established annual grant making process,” says Chair Deb Gill. “But when we saw what was happening with COVID, that all turned on a dime.” Gill says the Foundation began fundraising for COVID relief in March, and then partnered with the Rotary Club of Grand Bend to hold the Stay-at-Home Gala in early May. The community responded with overwhelming generosity, raising more than $80,000. When the federal Emergency Community Support Program came online later in May, GBCF stepped up to help distribute the funds allocated to us.
    Meanwhile, recognizing the urgent need created by the pandemic, the Foundation began making grants almost immediately. Among the beneficiaries: the Huron County Food Bank Distribution Centre, Huron Women’s Shelter, South Huron District Hospital, Blue Water Rest Home, One Care Home and Community Services, Community Living South Huron, and the Community Table.
    One innovative project involved funding local schools to hire unemployed supply teachers to provide one-on-one tutoring to children at risk. “We were overjoyed to receive this money,” says Abby Armstrong, Principal at Exeter Elementary School, “because we had a number of students who were struggling with the unusual education system that was in place in May and June. Giving them the extra help they needed means they will be closer to where we want them to be at the start of the next school year.” Armstrong adds that the project also benefited qualified teachers who were without income during the school closure.
    Another grant supported Big Brothers Big Sisters South Huron as they adapted to the new reality. “The funding helped us to upgrade our technology so that we could offer our group program virtually,” says Executive Director Amy Wilhelm. “The Foundation also provided some rent relief which enabled us to focus on the kids, instead of stressing about expenses.”
    Gill is proud of the way the Foundation responded to the crisis, but even more proud of the community support that enabled it. “I was deeply touched by the generosity of people in the region, even in the midst of an economic shutdown. It filled me with hope for the post-COVID future – for our ability to build back even stronger, more just communities.”

Socially-distanced cheque presentations to Exeter Elementary School and Big Brothers Big Sisters

A Vital Part of the South Huron Community
In July, the South Huron Vitality Fund made its first grants to three local organizations, the Huron Waves Music Festival, Big Brothers Big Sisters South Huron, and South Huron Winterfest.
    The Vitality Fund is an agreement between the Municipality of South Huron and the Grand Bend Community Foundation to support charities in South Huron. Finalized in late 2019, the agreement led to the establishment of an endowment fund that will continue to grow and produce an income every year for many years to come. In addition, the Municipality provided $10,000 in flow-through funding to ensure that local needs could be met this year.
    The committee reviewing the grant applications was led by Tom Prout, Chair of the South Huron Community Fund. “It was exciting to be part of the process of making the first grants from the Vitality Fund,” he says. “We had excellent applications, and I know the grants will make a real difference in our community.
Bats and Boardwalks
Since the arrival of the COVID-19 virus, bats have developed an undeserved bad name around the world. But if Heather Arsenault has anything to do with it, that will change, at least for visitors at Pinery Provincial Park. Arsenault works at Pinery, researching the Little Brown Myotis, a bat species that has become endangered due to White Nose Syndrome. Her work was supported by a grant from the Grand Bend Community Foundation in 2019.
    So too was the work of Amy Hall. The Foundation, through the RBC Future Launch Community Challenge, supported a project to counter the effects of trampling from people heading through the dunes to the Park’s magnificent beaches.
    One way to support bats is to provide them with human-made roosts where they can safely give birth and raise their pups. Arsenault is experimenting with two designs to determine which works best. The grant from GBCF helped purchase a tag reader that will provide ongoing data about which bats use which boxes.
    Hall’s project involves building and deploying rolling boardwalks, which are made of slats of wood attached to used fire hose. “We have a lot of species at risk in the dunes, including insects you don’t find anywhere else in Canada,” she says. “It’s a critical habitat and trampling is one of the biggest threats. We hope that if people see beautiful boardwalks with a sign that explains how fragile the ecosystem is, they’ll choose to use them.” She will also be sharing plans to make rolling boardwalks with landowners along the shoreline.
    Hall and Arsenault are clearly passionate about what they do to preserve the beautiful and rare ecosystem of Pinery. Says Arsenault says. “I love taking what we learn from our research and using it to show Pinery visitors that bats are important, misunderstood and really cool!”

Amy (left) and Heather at work
Build Back Better: Fall granting cycle approaches

When COVID-19 arrived in Canada in early 2020, our world was turned upside down. Now, as Ontario slowly and cautiously begins to re-open, it’s time to think about the post-COVID world, and how we can help to build it back better.
    The Grand Bend Community Foundation has committed to supporting a just and sustainable recovery in our region. This fall we invite grant applications from charities who are adapting to the new reality in innovative ways.
    Of course, we also welcome applications for the full range of community activities, from heritage and the arts, to recreation and the environment.

Applications are available online at
Please be sure to contact Executive Director Pat Morden at or 519-619-8630 while developing your idea.
Are You Grand Material?
Grand Men and Grand Women are two very special groups of donors. Each one has donated at least $1000 to help create new endowment funds at the Foundation. Members of the two groups participate in determining how grants are made from the funds – it’s hands-on philanthropy! To find out more, please join the Grand Women event on September 21, or Grand Men event on October 19. To register for either event (if you are not already a member), simply send an email to