Once upon a time…
The story of child welfare in Muskoka is a story of volunteer community involvement and the generosity of Muskokans. Time was when many local people would donate money to Family, Youth and Child Services, then known as the Children's Aid Society (C.A.S.) to help children and families on the Society's caseload who were known to be struggling. This kind of help, over and above the legislated 'must do', often made a significant difference in children's lives and in the ability of families to cope.
In the mid-80's, official funding for legislated services began to decrease. The Board and staff of the C.A.S. worried that private donations would be diverted to meet day-to-day operational requirements. If this were to happen, the benefits previously offered to Muskoka children would cease and donations might well dry up, since legislated services are largely seen to be the responsibility of government.
The questions became, how to maintain community involvement without jeopardizing those valuable extra services.
Laying a Foundation
The Oxford English Dictionary defines "foundation" as a base or groundwork on which something immaterial is raised or by which it is supported or confirmed.
The Board and staff of the C.A.S. decided to establish an endowment fund -- separate from C.A.S. and financed by private donations -- the interest and capital from which would provide for the help to children and their families formerly given through donations to the C.A.S..
Much preliminary work was accomplished, chiefly by Mike Fitton, Mary Tanton, and Rob Kightley. The inaugural meeting of The Children's Foundation of Muskoka was held on November 22nd, 1988. Present were Donna Banks, Muriel Beacom, Eric Cockshutt, Ev Corbett, Doris Donelly, Larry French, Rae Fyfe, Terry Handy, Rob Kightley, Brian Mathers, Ron Stokes and Mary Tanton. Terry Handy and Eric Cockshutt were elected as the first Board of Directors, with Rae Fyfe (President, C.A.S.) and Mary Tanton (Executive Director, C.A.S.) as ex-officio members. Ron Stokes was elected as the first President, Mary Tanton as Secretary, and Eric Cockshutt as Treasurer. It was agreed that application should be made of incorporation. This application was signed by all members present.
Raising the Structure
During the four long years required for the completion of the process of incorporation, the Board established the "shape" of the new institution in the form of by-laws and administrative rules and regulations.
The stated purposes of the Foundation were:
- To promote, devise, sponsor, establish, assist, develop and participate in measures and programmes for the benefit of children and families; provided such activities are consistent with the present objects of the Children's Aid Society of the District of Muskoka.
- To receive and maintain a fund or funds and to apply from time to time all or part thereof and the income there from for charitable purposes for the benefit of children and families, particularly those resident within the District Municipality of Muskoka; provided that the corporation's activity shall be wholly and exclusively charitable in nature.
It can be concluded that from these statements that the two driving principles of the Foundation were and are the pre-eminence of the needs of children and the essential involvement of volunteers.
Over the following years the Board has continued working to strengthen and consolidate the structure of the organization. For instance, in 1997 as part of the newly developed policy manual, five "foundation stones" or ends statements were created:
As a foundation, we believe:
- in the creation of a community where equality of opportunity is offered to all children;
- that we must be proactive in enabling the community to respond to the needs of children;
- in helping children and families in situations where other resources are not available;
- that all grant decisions that are made will be based exclusively on the needs of the children involved;
- that we must encourage the deployment of volunteers as 'friends of the Foundation' to assist our efforts.
We're in Business!
By the end of 1992, the newly incorporated Children's Foundation was ready to accept applications for grants. The Board determined that the grants would be made through one of three funds:
The Designated Camp Fund: receives, holds and expends funds to support children from Muskoka who go to summer camp under the sponsorship of Family, Youth and Child Services (F.Y.C.S.M.) Kids to Camp, a programme open to all children in Muskoka from families where there is financial hardship.
The General Fund: receives, holds and expends funds to meet needs of children and families within the general population of Muskoka.
The first and only grant made in 1992 was for $375. In 2014, more than 500 grants were approved, for a total of over $130,000.
Where are we now?
The Children's Foundation of Muskoka is now known as a resource of major importance in Muskoka. People are encouraged to approach us with their concerns when they feel we might be of help. The generosity of the people of Muskoka continues to make the Foundation a major contributor to the well-being of our children, youth, and to family life of those living in Muskoka.