People. Partnerships. Community: The First 15 Years of the Community Foundation of Ottawa
In December 1986, 13 public-spirited Ottawans came together to establish something very new, very challenging, and within little more than a decade, astonishingly successful, a groundbreaking organization dedicated to making philanthropy, easy, effective and enduring. This was the Community Foundation of Ottawa-Carleton (later the Community Foundation of Ottawa), a public charity that would allow individuals, families, corporations and non-profit organizations to make gifts in perpetuity to their community and thereby help shape its future. This history traces the highlights of the organization’s first fifteen years, spotlighting the people who were instrumental in getting it established and the exciting initiatives made possible by donors’ gifts.
People. Partnerships. Community. (ISBN 0-9732638-0-6) is published by the Community Foundation of Ottawa and can be ordered from the Foundation, located at 75 Albert Street, Suite 301, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5E7.
The Early Years: Launching a Dream
In 1986, Ottawa’s population numbered 305,000 people, while that of the National Capital Region boasted some 780,000 people. As the seat of the national government and home to a large proportion of Canada’s federal civil servants, Ottawa had long been considered a fat-cat city. Nevertheless, even in the nation’s capital that year one in seven children lived in poverty.
And as the decade came to a close and the country started to slide into a deep recession, anecdotal reports from across the region began to bolster the dry official statistics: children were coming to school without winter boots; increasing numbers of youngsters were getting their principal meal of the day at a soup kitchen; there were working families in which money was so tight that even replacing a lost pair of running shoes blew the family budget.
It was against this background that the Community Foundation of Ottawa-Carleton came into being on December 4, 1986, when 13 public-spirited Ottawans assembled in the conference room of the law firm Gowling & Henderson for the Foundation’s first board meeting. Leading citizens of Ottawa, they had come together on this early winter day to establish something very new, very challenging, and within little more than a decade, astonishingly successful, a groundbreaking organization dedicated to making philanthropy easy, effective and enduring. On the same day that The Ottawa Citizen’s Dear Abby column was providing tips for suitable Christmas presents, these Ottawans were creating the ultimate gift for the community, a conduit to funnel money to charitable and not-for-profit organizations and projects in Ottawa-Carleton.