Retail co-operatives have formed a funding programme for recreation, environmental conservation and urban agriculture across Western Canada.
Co-operative Retailing System launched Co-op Community Spaces, an initiative to protect and improve community spaces, in March and will donate CAN$1m (£497,000) every year to fund community projects.
“The strength and unity of the CRS – which is comprised of Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) and retail co-ops across Western Canada – is what makes this investment in communities possible,” said Vic Huard, executive vice-president of strategy at FCL.
“The overwhelming response is proof of how much western Canadians care about building their communities. Just as they always have, co-ops continue to give back to local communities. These shared spaces are an investment in the friends, families and neighbours that are the backbone of these communities.”
The country’s largest non-financial co-op, FCL is owned by 210 independent retail co-operatives across Western Canada, providing wholesaling, manufacturing, marketing and administrative services.
Along with local retail co-ops, FCL forms the Co-operative Retailing System, which employs over 24,500 people and serves 1.6 million individual members. In 2014, FCL donated CAN$3.7m (£1.8m) on behalf of CRS to community projects led by charities and non-profits. It also has a community investment fund to support projects that matter to staff.
Another flagship project is the Community Builder Program that enables employees to volunteer for local initiatives. Each month, six FCL employees are awarded a donation to their community organisation.
Eligible projects for Co-op Community Spaces can receive between CAN$25,000 (£12,400) and CAN$100,000 (£49,700) to invest in their local communities. Fifteen projects will receive CAN$25,000 in 2015; four of these will be selected as finalists for a further selection, with the winner getting another CAN$25,000.
Eligible projects must be run by a registered non-profit, charitable organisation or community service co-ops; be based in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan or Manitoba; and be completed in one to four years.
Nipawin Business Improvement District received the most votes – 3,465 – for its project to build a town square on the site of a former gas station.
The three other finalists were Manitoba Eco-Network, High Park School Parent Advisory League and Nanaimo Community Gardens Society. All finalists received CAN$25,000 in funding, with the winner receiving an additional CAN$25,000.
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