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New Westminster awards more than $800,000 in cash grants in 2021

City also provided more than $134,000 in services to local organizations
RCH Foundation
The Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation used a grant from the city for the backpack project at the New West hospital.

The Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation has been giving out COVID-19 wellness backpacks to low-income patients when they are discharged from the hospital.

It is one of the programs included in the city’s 2021 community grants program. In an Oct. 4 presentation to city council, city staff reported the city awarded 96 grants, representing $807,708 in cash and $134,347 in city services.

“The really exciting thing about 2021 is that it’s the first year that we had one-time small grants,” said city clerk Jacque Killawee. “We saw lots of new organizations coming into our grant program through that initiative.”

Earlier this year, the city supported on an initiative that sought to bring “joy and whimsy” as a way of helping community members during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we wanted to do was bring joy and whimsy into the grant process as well,” said Renee Chadwick, the city’s senior manager of recreation services and facilities. “We were able to add to the city applications to really encourage people to provide ideas for projects that lift community spirit and support recovery as we move forward through the pandemic. We are very excited for 2022 as we go through the process of going through the grant applications.”

The city has three different grant portfolios:  community livability and social equity, which includes grants for childcare, environment and social service projects; social and cultural vibrancy, which provides grants for the arts, sports, heritage, festivals and events; and community economic activators, which are made available to business and local associations that promote tourism and economic development.

Backback project funded

Jeff Norris, president and CEO of the Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation, said the hospital has been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and going through an expansion. He said the completion of the mental health and substance use centre as part of Phase 1 of the expansion was seen as an opportunity to expand services for people who may be having challenges with addictions or mental health services.

“Our wonderful clinicians put their minds together and thought about some of the things they can do,” he told council Monday night. “One of the things they came up with was the backpack project that has been granted a grant through your programs.”

With help from a  $10,000 grant from the City of New Westminster, the Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation has been able to put together backpacks that include items such as socks and mittens, washing supplies, Band-Aids, food and COVID safety supplies, such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

“The idea was we wanted to make sure that folks that might be dealing with challenges around shelter, or other challenges as they move out into the community, would have some sort of care package as they left the hospital to help them leave the hospital with a greater sense of dignity, and also have some tools to make sure their life is a little bit easier,” Norris said.

Norris said the grant allowed the hospital foundation to put together more than 300 backpacks, and they’re “making a huge difference already” and will continue to be given out to needy patients through the fall.

“It also gives us a real opportunity within our mental health services and addiction services to be able to provide something that creates a relationship between the hospital and people who might not turn to the services all the times that we want them to,” he said. “We really hope by creating that strong relationship, that when someone is in their time of need that they are thinking about the hospital and they are accessing the services that are very important that we can offer.”

Film funded

Sher Vancouver, a registered charity for LGBTQ South Asians and their friends and families, received a $4,000 social vibrancy grant to be put toward its feature film, Emergence: Out of the Shadows, a coming-out journey for gay and lesbian South Asians.

“We created Emergence to create awareness, social awareness, and to provide education not only to other gay and lesbian kids who are coming out, but to help educate the parents and broader society,” said Alex Sangha, founder of Sher Vancouver.

The feature film, released in July 2021, has been accepted at more than 20 film festivals around the world. It’s being screened at the New West Film Fest.

“Sher Vancouver is very fortunate that we have nurtured a very supportive relationship with the City of New Westminster because, without the city’s generous financial support, we would not be able to produce our short- and feature-length social justice documentary films,” Sangha said. “We are very grateful and hope to continue to work together with the city in the years to come.”

Chadwick  said the city’s most recent intake of grant applications closed on Oct. 1.

“We had almost 91 applicants this year, a huge increase from last year, and more organizations are applying,” she said. “Obviously the COVID-19 , there were impacts from pandemic and they are still in recovery stage for next year and we were able to provide support for various grant organizations as they applied for grants for various projects.”

Mayor Jonathan Cote said it was great for council to hear presentations from some of the grant recipients at the Oct. 4 meeting.

“Our grant program reaches so many different organizations that do incredible work, and diverse and unique work throughout the community. I am really glad we have had this opportunity to share and celebrate in successes of last year’s grant program,” he said. “Last year was not a typical year, and I think more than ever we needed to be able to support our community partners and still be able to find new and interesting ways to connect with the community. I think in many respects our partners were able to find many successes. It was really wonderful to hear and get a snapshot of a couple of our organizations.”

Follow Theresa McManus on Twitter @TheresaMcManus