George Brcko stands in the first cutblock harvested by Wells Gray Community Forest, April, 2018. (File photo)

George Brcko stands in the first cutblock harvested by Wells Gray Community Forest, April, 2018. (File photo)

Wells Gray Community Forest grant program now open

Applications are available online and due April 8.

The Wells Gray Community Forest Society (WGCFS) spring grant program is underway, with $100,000 of available funds to go towards projects that demonstrate a social need and community benefit in Wells Gray Country.

Twice per year, the Society receives applications, once in spring and the second in fall, that will support non-profit organizations in the are, such as schools, senior’s housing society or the district.

Those who wish to submit an application can download one from the Wells Gray Community Forest Corporation (WGCFC) website (wgcfc.ca) and deliver them either in person to the Dutch Lake Community Centre or by email. The deadline to have applications submitted in April 8, 2021, at 4:30 p.m.

The funds from the twice-a-year granting program has gone to help many organizations in the area, including the Wells Gray Country Seniors Society (WGCSS), Clearwater Secondary School and the District of Clearwater.

“Without them, we wouldn’t have done a lot of things,” said Lynne Frizzle, seniors coordinator for the WGCSS.

Over the years, the WGCFS has funded monthly bus trips for the seniors to areas such as Kamloops, Barriere and Blue River, to attend theatre shows, go bowling, shopping, visit the museum or stroll through the wildlife park. It gave the seniors in the community the opportunity to get out without having to worry about driving.

Some of the monthly seniors luncheons also had been funded by the Society, providing lunch, dessert, coffee and tea, as well as a facilitator that would talk about senior-related topics.

Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, those programs have been put on hold.

CSS Principal Darren Coates said every piece of the school has been touched with funding from the WGCFS during his time there, including a set of guitars for music classes, jerseys for the sports teams and high-performance desktop computers ($10,000) for the students to do 3-D modelling and drafting.

The grants to the high school, he added, have made CSS comparable to Valleyview Secondary and NorKam Senior Secondary Schools — with a fifth of the number of students — and their shop facilities are better than any other school in the district.

Funding from the school district is based on enrolment, as well as funding from the provincial government. Because of fluctuations in the overall number given to schools across the district, many of the projects would never have come to fruition.

“Our school generally is crazily-well outfitted with stuff because of all the grant money we’ve got. It’s a game changer,” said Coates. “We can provide opportunities to kids that otherwise we just couldn’t provide…in every single area of the school.”

Various projects completed by the DOC wouldn’t have been possible without funding from the WGCFC, such as the shelter and playground at Dutch Lake ($23,000), Winter Festivals ($300-$500) and materials for the hospital loop trail ($7,204.33). The money also allows groups, like the district, to leverage funds for bigger projects.

When the DOC was incorporated in 2007, the town wanted to get on the map, said DOC chief administrative officer, Leslie Groulx. One way to do that was a weather station. Through a partnership with the community forest, Environment Canada and the DOC, Clearwater got a weather station ($10,000).

The WGCFC was incorporated in 2004, and began operations a couple of years later. The The WGCFS was established in 2010, as a way to promote the “economic and social welfare” of the community of Wells Gray Country, as well as distribute funds that are received through the operations of the community forest.

As the programs became more popular, and larger amounts of money were being requested, the Wells Gray Community Forest Commission was created to handle the larger funds.

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