A second community foundation in the Pembina Valley is benefitting as the Thomas Sill Foundation continues wrapping up its operations. After decades of work, and millions of dollars in grants, the Foundation's governors are disbursing its financial assets by establishing endowment funds among community foundations across the province.

Last week the Morden Area Foundation received over $1.1 million and, Wednesday, the Altona Community Foundation (ACF) received about $750,000.

"It's extremely exciting," said ACF Chair Haydon Friesen. "We are extremely fortunate to have Thomas Sill be a part of our community and especially, the Community Foundation since its inception 30 years ago now. This donation is undoubtedly transformative for our foundation and will allow us to grant out even more dollars to the community and surrounding area moving forward and for many years to come." 

Members of ACF and Robert Martens at Wednesday's announcementMembers of ACF and Robert Martens at Wednesday's announcement

ACF was one of the first organizations to be established in the province thanks to an incentive spearheaded by the Thomas Sill Foundation to create local community foundations. The Thomas Sill Foundation provided matching grants up to $100,000 if the local foundation raised $200,000. 

The $750,000 will be set up as its own endowment fund with the ACF.  It will add thousands of dollars in grants annually, and in perpetuity. "We look forward to growing over the next number of years as well and increasing those granting dollars that become available on a year-to-year basis," added Friesen.

"You don't have to look very far to see all the different projects that are happening within Altona and the surrounding area and the organizations the Community Foundation has been able to support over the last number of years, or over the last 30 years really, and the impact that those financial contributions has been able to move those projects forward or bring them to completion. It's very exciting to see."

This injection from the Thomas Sill Foundation increases ACF's assets close to the $2.5 million mark. 

Thomas Sill was born in 1905, lived his entire life in Winnipeg. He practiced as a chartered accountant for many years and was a founding partner of Sill Streuber Fiske which later merged with BDO Canada. He would visit many of the firm's offices scattered throughout southern Manitoba including Selkirk, Winnipeg, Morden, Winkler and Altona, growing an affinity for those communities, explained Robert Martens, a governor with the Thomas Sill Foundation and founding member of the ACF. 

The majority of the money being disbursed is going to The Winnipeg Foundation into a Thomas Sill Rural Community Fund that will continue to issue grants to the nearly 60 eligible community foundations outside of the capital. "But this was a little piece that could we do separately that would sort of carry on his legacy," noted Martens at Wednesday's presentation.

Meanwhile, the communities where Sill Streuber Fiske had offices are receiving additional disbursements from the Foundation's capital assets.

Over the 36 years that the Thomas Sill Foundation operated, it has granted out $46 million to charities, non-profits and causes in, basically, rural Manitoba, added Martens. "Whenever there was a donation or a grant to an organization in Winnipeg, it was usually focused on, is it something that rural Manitobans can also use? So, health facilities or public museums or those kinds of things, and everyone could benefit but it was always keeping in mind the rural component."

Speaking as a founding member of ACF, Martens said this latest investment is exciting to see. 

"When we started, it was always, 'oh, we've got so little money and there's so many needs in the community'. You can only give away your income and so, there was always just a little bit and as it's grown, there was a little bit more and a little more and now, if you take, say a five per cent return on that, it should be maybe $35,000 extra that can go to organizations served by Altona Community Foundation. That's just going to be outstanding."

With files from Chris Sumner


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